Dubai: Jockey Dane O’Neill says course form is the key to winning at Jebel Ali Racecourse as he prepares to partner favourite Mujaazef in the Shadwell Farm-sponsored feature race on Friday afternoon.
A proven course specialist and winner of this race 12 months ago, the five-year-old son of Dubawi faces some tough opposition as he bids to continue trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe’s dominance in the showpiece races at the venue.
O’Neill’s remarks are borne out of the fact that six of his eight rivals have shown that they are as effective on Jebel Ali’s famous hill finish among them the locally-trained Otaared (6 wins), Mosabah Al Muhairi’s Atlantic Brave (5), the Satish Seemar-trained Escape Route (4) and Five Cents (4), who is also schooled at Al Raihe’s Grandstand Stables in Nad Al Sheba. Two others, the Doug Watson-trained Qartier Latin and Al Raihe’s Alazeyab have also scored once at the track.
Against this intriguing scenario O’Neill’s comments assume added significance.
Commenting on the chances of the Grandstand trio the jockey, who is looking for his first UAE winner for new boss Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, said: “All three seem in great form and proved last year they can go well fresh as they all won first up at Jebel Ali, where course form is always important.
“We have made a good start to the season and we are hoping all three run big races.”
Watson’s Quarter Latin, who won at this track in February last year, makes his first start in 616 days while stable companion Qubba, who won the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2009, make his dirt debut having been absent all of last season.
“They are certainly both going to improve for this comeback but this looks a great starting place for them both,” said the handler. “Quartier Latin is a Jebel Ali winner so the surface is not an issue and he is as fit as we can get him at home.
“We have only managed one run with Ouqba and this will be his third season here so it is nice to get him out again. He is a nice horse and seems to handle dirt well enough in his work. It is a strong heat though and it is just great to get them back on the track with a full season ahead with, hopefully, plenty of options for them.”
Long-serving Jebel Ali trainer Dhruba Selvaratnam has a distinct advantage at the track and as a result Otaared must be feared as he has stormed to victory no less than six times since 2009. The seven-year-old son of Storm Cat did not win in four starts last season but is reportedly in good form and at his best when produced fresh.
Trainer Satish Seemar has his stable in top order and Escape Route is in with a big chance as is the Mosabah Al Muhairi duo of Atlantic Brave and Ibn Battuta.
Wayne Smith, who rides the former, said: “Both have good course form and we have made a good start to the campaign. There is little between our pair in a very hot contest for so early in the season.”
Meanwhile, the HH Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum UAE Breeders Society Challenge makes its return in the form of a 15-runner maiden which looks an open race.
Seemar’s Gustav looks to hold genuine claims given the form his horses have shown, while Jaber Bittar’s Bouthayna Al Reef and Anthony Manuel’s Sicertarya also warrant attention.
Elsewhere the Selvaratnam-trained duo of Sarbola and Kessraa won at the corresponding meeting last year and will be looking to repeat those wins in 1,900m and 1,400m handicaps respectively.
Kessraa’s opponents include the Seemar-trained Al Razi, whom he narrowly beat in this race last year and Myownway, trained by Al Raihe and, like Al Razi, already a winner at Jebel Ali this season.
Purebred Arabian racing returns to Jebel Ali for the first time this season with 15 declared for a maiden which opens proceedings.
The first race goes to post at 2.25pm, entrance is free.