Dubai: Ali Rashid Al Raihe’s Haatheq is set to rule in the feature race of the evening, the Dh110,000 Emirates Airline Stakes, as racing returns to Meydan for the start of the 2012-13 UAE flat racing season.
The five-year-old son of Seeking The Gold is reportedly among the most forward of Al Raihe’s older string, having produced some impressive recent work on the gallops.
A lot is to be expected of him this season and his performance in today’s 1,600m contest will provide a clue as to how far he can progress in the months ahead.
Haatheq ended last season with a solid second place to Godolphin’s Mendip in Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge (G2).
He takes on eight rivals led by Doug Watson’s Barbecue Eddie, a two time winner at this course last season, and the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Treble Jig, winner of both the Listed Jebel Ali Mile and Jebel Ali Stakes in January.
The latter will have concede weight all-round but stable jockey Smith is looking forward to renewing his partnership with the horse.
“He was a star for us last season, from his first run at Abu Dhabi when he won easily on the turf,” he said.
“The two Jebel Ali wins were great efforts and a real boost to the whole yard.
“You could argue his two efforts at Meydan on the all-weather were his worst but there were excuses each time. It is never easy to give weight away but this looks a good place to bring him back to the track.”
Watson’s Barbecue Eddie was set to start in the Godolphin Mile (G2) on Dubai World Cup night but missed the race due to illness.
“We were really looking forward to the Godolphin Mile as he offered us a lot of hope he will stay the extra 200metres and he had a nice low draw,” said the American handler. “That was not to be, but this looks a good spot for him and again he has drawn well. Hopefully he can run well in an open race.”
Dhruba Selvaratnam saddles Canwinn who raced exclusively on the Tapeta at Meydan last season. The son of Royal Ascot winner Refuse to Bend started with a bang, posting impressive back-to-back wins, before being caught out in higher company.
Selvaratnam’s horses run well fresh and with the exciting James Doyle returning to Jebel Ali Racecourse as stable-jockey Canwinn can shine for his connections.
Satish Seemar has made a flying start to the season with two wins at Jebel Ali last week and the former champion handler will aim to keep the momentum going when he saddles ten runners, among them Montmorency.
Al Raihe also has strong claims in the Skywards Stakes over 2,000 where he runs Zain Shamardal, a winner at this course in February.
The champion handler has two other contenders, Rochdale, who won this race over the last two years, and Wonder Lawn.
Racing kicks-off with a 15-runner maiden race Erwan Charpy’s Fa’iz and the Al Raihe-trained Shark In The Sea stand out.
The Emirates Entertainment Racing Syndicate can get their season off to a positive start should Mark to Market win the Emirates Holidays Stakes over 1,400m.
Watson’s Final Recovery and the Seemar-trained Kingdom Beauty look to be the main threats.
The meeting concludes with 1,200m Emirates Airline Stakes where Al Muhairi hopes Russian Rock can shoulder top-weight to victory.
“Like Treble Jig, whatever he achieves this time he will build on and we do not have the best of draws,” said jockey Smith. “That said, he is in good form and should run his usual solid race and it would be great to think both horses will be back at Jebel Ali with live chances later in the season.”
Selvaratnam’s Alo Pura and Al Raihe’s Garbah look strong contenders as well.