Dubai: Thirteen horses will line up for today’s feature race at Jebel Ali Racecourse, the seven-furlong Shadwell Farm Handicap, but an attempt to shorten down the field to three or four with real chances, came to nought.
Champion trainer Doug Watson is usually the go-to person in situations like this, but even he must be scratching his head, thinking about which way the race will go.
Watson saddles Ejaaby and Elronaq with the former appearing to have an each way chance on the strength of his UK form while Elronaq will have to show improvement on his previous start at Meydan, where he failed to make an impression.
Stable jockey Pat Dobbs has elected to ride Ejaaby, a four-year-old son of Invincible Spirit who was previously based with Roger Varian in Britain.
During this spell, Ejaaby had one win in six starts, with his sole victory coming on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton in April.
Assessing his pair, Watson said: “Ejaaby has been training well and is certainly ready for a race, so this appeared the ideal starting point for him.
“Elronaq perhaps needed that first run at Meydan more than we thought he would, so hopefully [he] can build on that if taking to the Jebel Ali track.”
Both Ejaaby and Elronaq will race in the colours of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, who is also represented by Mushaakis in the race.
Resident Jebel Ali handler Gopi Selvaratnam, who is searching for a first winner at his home track, is two handed with two-time course and distance winner Gobooll, and UAE debutant Final Reckoning.
Formerly trained by Charlie Appleby to win two of his five starts in 2016, the ex-Godolphin colt will be having his first start in 482 days.
But Selvaratnam remains confident and said: “First Reckoning is a nice new horse in the yard, but likely to need this run after being off the track for a long time.
“However, he’s been working well at home and looks fit and ready to run. He has the class to overcome the long lay-off and we’re hopeful of a good performance as he will be ridden by our stable jockey Oisin Murphy.
“Gobooll is proven under these conditions and ran well over course and distance when second on his seasonal return four weeks ago,” he added.
“He is drawn 13, which is not ideal, even on the straight track.”
Silvestre de Sousa, crowned 2017 British champion jockey for a second time, makes his seasonal debut as stable jockey for in-form handler Ahmad Bin Harmash.
The 36-year-old Brazilian, who won the 2014 Dubai World Cup aboard African Story for Godolphin, rides Pathway To Honour, who was a winner at Abu Dhabi on Sunday when ridden by Connor Beasley.
Beasley partners stable companion and two-time course scorer Ormindo.
“Sunday was Pathway To Honour’s first start for us and we are keen to try him on dirt,” Bin Harmash said. “This is a good opportunity to do that, while Ormindo likes it at Jebel Ali, where he won last time he ran there in early January, but has not run since February.”
Race 1: 1. Aslan; 2. Heraldic.
Race 2: 1. Tradesman; 2. Rothenburg.
Race 3L 1. Final Reckoning; 2. Speedy Move.
Race 4: 1. Shillong; 2. Hammurabi.
Race 5: 1. Muharrib; 2. Jintshi.
Race 6: 1. Perfect Sense; 2.Au Coeur.
Day’s Best: Tradesman