Dubai: Meydan Racecourse has enjoyed a vibrant season since the new dirt track was introduced last month and on Thursday prepares to stage its first major race meeting, featuring three new and exciting Listed races.
The Garhoud Sprint, Dubai Creek Mile and Entisar, are all sponsored by event-patron Al Tayer Motors, and provide crucial opportunities for horses seeking to announce themselves as Dubai World Cup Carnival candidates.
While all three races offer an equal purse of Dh205,000, the 1200 metre Garhoud Sprint is a potential show stopper and an early pointer to the big sprint races on Dubai World Cup night.
Nine face the starter with the Dhruba Selvaratnam-trained Sholaan hoping to lay down an immediate marker for the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, a race in which he finished 10th last season after his chances were compromised by a clumsy start.
The five-year-old son of Invincible Spirit was an impressive winner on his seasonal debut at Jebel Ali Racecourse three weeks ago and makes his debut on the Meydan dirt in what appears to be the strongest race on the card.
“He goes there with a seemingly good chance, but it’s a very competitive looking race,” Selvaratnam cautioned. “There are four or five horses in the race who have strong claims.
“I’m not too worried about the dirt as he has a high [knee] action and should be able to handle the surface.”
Selvaratnam hinted a long-term target could be the Al Quoz Sprint [Turf] on March 28.
“He only finished about three lengths behind the winner [Amber Sky] after missing the break last year, so you would have to be hopeful about having another shot at it.
“But we’ll have to see how he runs tomorrow and then make plans for the rest of the season.”
One of the main dangers could be The Taj, who represents in-form handler Doug Watson.
“We were delighted with both his starts this season,” said the Red Stables maestro. “He was a good second first up and built on that with a smooth win last time.
“He has a penalty for that which makes life harder but he is in great form and should run a big race.”
Musabah Al Muhairi saddles Rafeej, winner of the race last year when it was a Conditions event.
Tamaathul, who was second on that occasion also runs with strong claims as does the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Nawwaar, a five-time winner on Turf.
Selvaratnam also saddles exciting UAE newcomer Grand Salute, a Group 1 winner and Derby runner-up in Uruguay, in the Dubai Creek Mile Sponsored By Lincoln M K C Listed Stakes.
“We’ve only had him for a couple of months so we are still learning a few things about him,” the former UAE champion handler said. “He’s handled the acclimatisation quite well and settled in nicely.
“He looks a very nice horse and is fit and ready to run, but you will never know just how good he is until the race. The mile is his optimum trip, but he might just need the run.”
Satish Seemar introduces last year’s Dubai World Cup (G1) runner Surfer and stable companion Cold City who was last seen finishing a respectable fourth in the Godolphin Mile (G1) on the same card in March.
Ten line up in The Entisar, the third Listed contest including the Watson pair of Cooptado and Storm Belt.
Racing begins with the Group 3 Mazrat Al Ruwayah for Purebred Arabians where Areem, a four-time UAE Group 1 winner trained by Majid Al Jahouri appears the one to beat.
Bigg N Rich, trained by Eric Lemartinel landed the prep race two weeks ago and should run well.