Abu Dhabi: Derbaas, one of the stars of Ali Rashid Al Raihe’s Grandstand Stables, makes his Abu Dhabi debut in what looks like a red hot renewal of the National Day Cup prep over a mile on turf.
The Shadwell Farm-bred son of Seeking The Gold has been campaigned almost entirely on the Tapeta at Meydan, a surface on which he scored one of his biggest wins when triumphant in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort last February.
However, Al Raihe is more concerned about how Derbaas will respond to racing right-handed as his natural instinct has been to run left-handed.
“Derbaas is pleasing us at home and we expect a big run but it will be the first time he has raced right-handed for us, which is a concern,” said the three-time championship winning handler.
“But he’s improving with age and has been consistent in his work. I believe that he has a good chance of scoring as he has the class to handle the change in conditions.”
The six-year-old’s last turf success came at Ascot in 2008 when he won a maiden for trainer Ed Dunlop.
Dane O’Neill takes the ride for Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, whose famous blue and white silks will be carried by five of the eleven jockeys in the race.
Derbaas faces a difficult task. He is up against a few giant slayers led by the Doug Watson-trained Marching Time who won this race last year.
The trainer said of his six-year-old gelding’s chances: “Marching Time deserved that win last year because he had been unlucky in defeat a few times but this looks a stronger renewal and Finjaan is probably our main hope.”
Dhruba Selvaratnam saddles Toolain and the veteran handler said of the Darley-bred four-year-old: “It will be his first run for us on turf after three runs last season so that is hopefully in his favour but I think he will probably need the run.”
Sunday’s six-race card also features the Purebred Arabian version of the National Day Cup prep, which has attracted some of the breed’s heavyweights including Fryvolous, a winner of the Dubai Kahayla Classic in 2009.
Tadhg O’Shea takes the ride for Ernst Oertel and the jockey said: “He has been working well and Ernst is very pleased with him. There are some quality performers in the race but he is certainly one of them and I am looking forward to riding him in a race as he has impressed me at home in the mornings.”
Trainer Eric Lemartinel saddles Group 1 winner Nieshan, who was fifth in this race last year, while Watson is represented by the evergreen Kandar Du Falgas,
Gerald Avranche will resume his association with Nieshan and commented: “He is a top quality horse and must have a big chance. Obviously it is his first run back and he will improve with a run under his belt but it is the obvious race to get him going again.”
Watson was delighted to be saddling Kandar Du Falgas and said: “It is great he stays in training but seemed as good as ever last season despite now being a 10-year-old. This has been the plan and he seems in good order.”
Also on the card is the Wathba Stud Farm Cup For Private Owners Only which has attracted ten runners.