Dubai: The year 2016 witnessed the launch of the Dubai Water Canal - another feather in the city’s cap - in November.
Earlier in the year, trainer Doug Watson and his merry string of gallopers from the Red Stables in the heart of Dubai had already thrown open the floodgates to totally dominate proceedings at Meydan racecourse.
Watson’s horses, led by the outstanding One Man Band, revelled on the one-year-old dirt track at Meydan that appeared to play to their strengths. It was no surprise that the American handler won 31 races at the venue which had finally come full circle to the roots of Dubai racing with the replacement of a dirt surface over the synthetic all-weather track.
Watson would go on the win the trainer’s championship - churning out winner-after-winner to finish the season on 57, well clear of the Emirati pair of Musabbeh Al Mheiri (41) and Ali Rashid Al Rayhie (40).
Besides One Many Band who streaked to five victories, another star for the Red Stables was the very promising Polar River who annexed four trophies, including the Listed UAE 1000 Guineas and the Group 3 UAE Oaks. He was narrowly touched off by Japanese raider Lani, in the Group 1 UAE Derby, on Dubai World Cup night.
One Man Band was a revelation. Beginning his season at the handicap level, the son of Pivotal made rapid progress up the ranks to win the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes and cap a brilliant season with a thumping victory in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night.
Another star was Musabbeh Al Mherir’s Muarrab, who made a humble start for the season when winning a Conditions event at Jebel Ali, but would transform himself into a high class sprinter with stunning wins in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal and the Grooup 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night - where he defeated American superstar XY Jet in a thrilling finish.
The dirt track would also attract the top horses from America, like Kentucky Derby (G1) hero California Chrome, who won the Dubai World Cup in extraordinary circumstances.
The son of a $2,500 sire, Lucky Pulpit, Chrome and his rider Victor Espinoza overcame a slipping saddle early in the race to destroy his rivals and win in course record time of 2 minutes 01.83 seconds.
UAE-bred AF Mathmon won the Dubai Kahayla Classic, giving owner Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, a 10th success in the prestigious Purebred Arabian contest and a first for trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri.