Dubai: Purebred Arabians are all set to make their seasonal debut at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday when a classy group of nine runners will compete in the Group 2 Bani Yas, the feature race of a seven-event card sponsored by pillar partner Gulf News.
The 1400-metre dirt contest, which acts as a prep for the first round of the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge on the opening night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival in five weeks’ time, has earned the attention of leading Arabian handler Helel Al Alawi, who is responsible for three of the runners.
The Emirati appears to have his string at The National Stables in fine order — having recorded 12 winners thus far in the season, just one below two-time champion trainer Doug Watson.
Al Alawi and Pat Cosgrave have been firing on all cylinders with the jockey having ridden all but one of the handler’s dozen winners.
Cosgrave, currently leading the jockeys’ standings on 13 winners, partners RB Goliath, a four-time winner at Al Ain between distances of five furlongs to a mile.
Al Alawi’s two other contenders, Burning Breeze and RB So Rich are to be ridden by Royston Ffrench and Connor Beasley respectively.
“The horses have been in great form and we hope it continues,” said Al Alawi. “This looks a good race for these three horses and we expect them to run well.
“Burning Breeze is having his first run this season but seems in good form and the other two will be having their second outings of the campaign.
“Obviously, it is a good race but we are hopeful they will be competitive with possibly slight preference for RB Goliath.”
The Al Asayl team headed by French handler Eric Lemartinel send out RB Torch, the mount of former champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea, who has already found the mark this season on the Abu Dhabi turf.
O’Shea said: “He won well the first day, actually beating stablemate Darius Du Paon who then won the big race at Abu Dhabi last Sunday.
“It is a decent race but he is working well and should be thereabouts.”
Ernst Oertel saddles RB Madymoiselle, a Grade One winner in her native US whose only two UAE starts have been in the Group 1 Kahayla Classic, on Dubai World Cup day and the world’s richest Purebred Arabian race, the Group 1 Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown where he did not make an impression.
Thursday’s card also features a pair of thoroughbred handicaps, both worth Dh190,000 on a card that carries a total purse of Dh1.18 million.
One of them, the 1600m Gulf News handicap, sees Watson saddle three including Nathrm who heads the weights besides Grand Argentier and Galvanize.
Watson saddled four winners at the last Meydan meeting a fortnight ago, and looks to have the ammunition to continue to dominate his rivals.
“We ran Nathr over 2000m last time and he will prefer this return to 1600m,” said the American.
“Galvanize won, over this course and distance, at the first Meydan meeting a month ago when Grand Argentier was third in the same 2000m race Nathr contested.
“All three are fit and well so we expect them to run big races in an open-looking contest.”
Trinity Force won on that occasion and looks the horse to beat in the concluding gulfnews.com, handicap. Dehbashi is one of four in this race for Watson whose stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, has chosen to ride Active Spirit.
Midnight Chica, second in last season’s UAE Oaks, represents first season handler Gopi Selvaratnam.