Dubai: Trainer Dhruba Selvaratnam rarely attempts to predict how his runners will fare but even by his own standards the veteran handler was hopeful of a good effort from My Verse when she runs in the feature event at Friday’s season opener at Jebel Ali Racecourse.
The six-year-old daughter of Darley Australia’s star stallion Exceed And Excel only made it to the track twice last season but is known to run her best races when produced fresh.
Given this redeeming characteristic Selvaratnam rates My Verse as his best prospect on an afternoon where he saddles four runners.
“We know conditions suit and she normally runs well first time out so we are hoping for a good run,” said Selvaratnam, who saddled 11 of his 17 winners last season, at his home track at Jebel Ali.
“None of these races are easy to win and good prize money attracts strong fields, but if pushed I would say she was the best chance we have on the afternoon.”
My Verse, who is owned by Maj General Shaikh Ahmad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police and Public Security, was runner-up to Mujaazef in the same race last season, after having won it in 2010.
The feaure race carries a purse of Dh90,000 and is sponsored by Shadwell, the UK arm of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance’s thoroughbred breeding empire.
Shaikh Hamdan himself has a runner in the race, in the form of former course winner Hajjaan. Trained by Musabah Al Muhairi, the five-year-old son of Mr Greely, will be ridden by experience Irish jockey Darragh O’Donohoe.
Wayne Smith, who boasts an impressive record at Jebel Ali, rides the Al Muhairi-trained Celtic King. The nine-year-old son of King’s Best is a versatile performer who has notched wins at all the UAE’s race tracks including four at Friday’s venue.
Commenting on Hajjaan and Celtic King’s chances, Smith said: “They both go well on the track and seem in good form at home so hopefully should be competitive in an open race.”
Abdullah Bin Huzaim’s Taqdeyr and the Satish Seemar-trained Al Naouwee have useful form at the course and can be expected to run well.
Champion trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe is two-handed in the race with Hajoum, the choice of stable jockey Royston Ffrench, while apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooei takes the ride on Enjoy Dubai, who will be having his first start for the yard having previously been trained by South African handler Mike De Kock.
Another interesting contender is Colourful Score, who makes his return to action after a gap of 224 days. The eight-year-old son of King’s Best was last seen winning his maiden at the track in October 2010. He will be ridden by Seemar’s retained rider Richard Mullen.
Elsewhere on the card, Al Raihe’s Enjoy Today makes his Jebel Ali debut in a 10-runner opener over a mile.
The Kingmambo colt has shown resonably strong form at Sharjah and Meydan and should he handle the track can be expected to be at the finish.
The main threat appears to be the Selvaratnam-trained Moannaa, while Dane O’Neill, who was recently appointed second jockey to Shaikh Hamdan, also has his first UAE ride aboard the Doug Watson-trained Mabroor.
Al Raihe’s second string Mutual Force will be ridden by promising Emirati apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooei, who also rides local debutant Desert Of Dreams in the 1,000m maiden sponsored by Al Shafar Investment. A consistent performer when previously trained by Paul Deegan in Ireland, he faces strong rivals in Watson’s Ballroom Blitz and Seemar’s Glenleven.
The concluding race of the afternoon, a 1,400m handicap sponsored by Power Point, appears to be the most competitive event on the card with 14 set to face the starter.
Selvaratnam’s 10-year-old veteran Dahteer takes on the likes of Seemar’s Moonlight Dash and Watson’s Daboos, the mount of O’Neill.