Ed Marnane: Seven-time UAE Champion trainer Doug Watson is facing a tough battle to retain his crown.
The American currently three wins behind Bhupat Seemar, will be eager to get among at the winners at Jebel Ali on Saturday, and give his title ambitions a boost and close the gap on Seemar.
Based at Red Stables in Dubai, Watson is taking a big team to the Dubai track’s opening meeting of the year. In the feature in Race 5, an 1800m Handicap, Watson runs US import American Dancer, Exciting Days and Al Murqab, the mount of Pat Dobbs.
The last-named, a winner at Jebel Ali on his seasonal reappearance in October, holds the strongest claims of the trio and has a solid chance of taking the prize.
The Canadian-bred gelding wasn’t beaten far on his most recent start when a staying on second to Desert Wisdom in a minor event over 1400m at Jebel Ali. The winner gave the form a major boost when giving the highly regarded Al Nefud a minor fright at Meydan last week.
Al Murqab is likely to find the step up to 1800m in his favour and can take his career tally to two on his sixth visit to Jebel Ali.
It’s hard to ignore the claims of Prevent, a winner at Jebel Ali earlier in the season in the hands of Ray Dawson for his main employer Ahmad bin Harmash, a yard that has enjoyed a revival this season.
He failed to follow up next time, getting caught in the dying strides by Capla Crusader, the pair clear of Law Of Peace who went on to win a competitive handicap at Meydan eight days ago. Prevent, a consistent and reliable type, is ideally berthed in stall No 1, and can be trusted to give a good account.
Top-weight Tenbury Wells caught the eye on his local debut for new trainer Salem bin Ghadayer in November. Ridden by Royston Ffrench, he lost out narrowly to the progressive Remorse having travelled nicely throughout the race. It was a highly encouraging performance on his first start on dirt from the well-bred gelding.
He has disappointed twice since, the latest when was pulled up behind Down On Da Bayou. He had a valid excuse and was found to be lame after the race. If he can bounce back, he’s worth giving another chance.
Monoski, bin Ghadayer’s second runner, has the assistance of Royston Ffrench and has progressed with racing since returning from his summer break. Runner-up in his last two races, he ought to go well and demands respect.
George Villiers, returning after a lengthy break, looks Zabeel Stables main hope with Tadhg O’Shea up. He chased home the course specialist Just A Penny on his only start at Jebel Ali. He’s having his first run since being gelded.
Bin Ghadayer and Ffrench team up with Rawy in Race 2, a 1200m maiden. Owned by RRR Racing, he ran well on his racecourse debut at Meydan when second to Summer Is Tomorrow, keeping on nicely in the closing stages. In a modest looking event, he will take plenty of beating and rates the best bet on the card.
Sadaaty, trained on the track by Nicholas Bachalard, is an interesting runner on his first start in public. By Munnings, sire of the smart filly Shahama, he’s bred to be useful and cost connections $380,000 (R5.8m) at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale. If the market speaks in his favour, he merits consideration.
Racing ends with another maiden, over 1600m, in which 14 go to post. Pat Dobbs has chosen Hero d’Oro, the well-bred five-year-old has looked one-paced in all his three runs his races since joining Red Stables. The stiff test at Jebel Ali is likely to suit and its significant Dobbs has elected to keep the ride on the son of Medaglia d’Oro.
Sam Hitchcott has picked up the ride Sharp Spun. He shaped with promise on his first start for Watson when splitting Rakeez and Sheringham in a similar event at Jebel Ali before Christmas. Having his first start for 293 days, he was noted putting in his best work in the closing stages and is entitled to step forward for the race.
A full field of 16 has been declared for Race 4, a 1400m handicap. Fawaareq, owned by Shadwell, is the only last-start winner in the field and holds sound claims of following up for Doug Watson. He showed a willing attitude to catch Dangerous Thought close home in a 1200m handicap at this course, snapping a lengthy losing run going back to July 2016.
Ahmad bin Harmash-trained Triple Venture, an unexposed colt, is worth considering despite flopping on his handicap debut at Meydan last time. He weakened badly in the closing stages having looked a threat off the hometurn over 1900m.
He showed promise on his debut behind Zero To Hundred, leaving the impression he was a future winner. He travels strongly in his races, suggesting dropping back the son of Elusive Quality in distance is a wise decision.
Race 2 No 6 Rawy
Race 4 No 10 Triple Venture
Race 2: 3 Trickbag and 9 Hyde Park
(Races 4 TO 7)
Leg 1: 6, 8, 10, 12
Leg 2: 2, 6
Leg 3: 1, 8, 11
Leg 4: 3, 8, 11