Dubai: With just five points separating the top three trainers the battle for the coveted UAE Trainer’s Championship looks set to go down to the wire.
As the season enters the home stretch, defending champion Doug Watson (35) holds a three-win advantage over fellow Dubai-based handler Satish Seemar (32) who are closely chased by Abu Dhabi’s Eric Lemartinel, who has sent out 30 winners from his base at Al Asayl Stables.
Given the fact that the Jockey’s Championship is also poised for a close finish between Richard Mullen (45) and Tadhg O’Shea (42). this could be one of the most intriguing finishes in UAE racing history.
With no one remotely close to challenge the leaders, this weekend’s racing action, which features meetings at four of the five racing centres, will see some gripping action, albeit it has no bearing on the Dubai World Cup extravaganza in two weeks time.
As a result Meydan Racecourse’s penultimate meeting of the season on Thursday, takes on a whole new dimension.
On the agenda is a seven race all-dirt card highlighted by a valuable Dh175,000 IPIC Trophy, 1600m handicap for horses rated 76-89 (94).
a total of 15 horses have been declared, including the Doug Watson-trained Active Spirit who is likely to start as the Pick Six favourite.
The six year old landed his third win in two seasons at Meydan, a smart victory over today’s course and distance.
“He has come out of that last race in great shape,” said Watson. “The draw has been kind, so, hopefully, he will produce a big run and he is a course and distance winner so the shorter trip should not be a concern.”
The Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained duo of Shawaahid and Munaaser look to be the main dangers.
Tadhg O’Shea rides Shawaahid, who will be making his dirt debut.
“He seems to handle the surface in the mornings so hopefully will do so under race conditions, but you never know until you try,” said O’Shea. “His form is good and he has been working well, so if conditions do not catch him out, he should be thereabouts in a competitive race.”
Jim Crowley, retained rider to Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, takes the ride on Munaaser.
Dane O’Neill, also retained by Shaikh Hamdan, partners Nolohay, one of two in the race trained by first-season handler Maria Ritchie.
Ritchie, who celebrated her first winner with AF Ssayeb at Abu Dhabi on Sunday, also saddles Muhtaram, the mount of stable jockey Fernando Jara.
Heraldic, trained by Satish Seemar, looks the one to beat in the IPIC Group Company handicap, where Ritchie saddles two live chances in Druids Ridge, the mount of Fernando Jara and Ajraam, ridden by Dane O’Neill.
“Druids Ridge ran very well over course and distance last time so conditions should suit and he is well drawn,” said Ritchie.
“Ajraam won over course and distance in November but lost his way a bit. He seems in good form now though and has a nice draw, so should run well.”
Al Raihe saddles three, including Raafid, the mount of Crowley.
The trainer also saddles Mutahaddith and Estidraak, first and second over course and distance 12 days ago.
Debutant, Greeb is one of two in the field for Watson who also saddles three-time winner Mathematics. “Mathematics is proven under these conditions but has been done favours by the draw,” said Watson. “Greeb ran twice at Jebel Ali but has not run on dirt at Meydan before. There is nothing else for him on turf, so we will see how he handles the surface.”
On his most recent outing, Mathematics was third behind the Satish Seemar-trained Raven’s Corner, the mount of Richard Mullen.
“He is progressive and perhaps a Carnival prospect for next year,” said assistant trainer, Bhupat Seemar. “An excellent second on his first run for us, he won well last time and is having just his third local outing. We expect him to go very close.”
Top 3 Trainers
Wins/ Prize money
1 Doug Watson 35 7,524,623
2 Satish Seemar 32 5,079,308
3 Eric Lemartinel 30 5,906,718
Top 3 Jockeys
1 Richard Mullen 45 7,279,742
2 Tadhg O’Shea 43 4,856,334
3 Patrick Dobbs 26 5,806,938