Dubai: All good things much come to an end and this Friday the curtains will fall on the 2018-2019 UAE racing season when Meydan Racecourse hosts the final meeting highlighted by the inaugural running of the Nad Al Sheba Classic, sponsored by Longines V H P Collection.
A 2,000-metre rated conditions event on turf, the race demonstrates the depth and attractiveness of horse racing in the country with a maximum field of 16 runners lining up to to challenge for a purse of Dh240,000.
Among them are UAE debutant Gabr, who races out of the Doug Watson stables and Mike de Kock’s Yulong Prince, a Grade 1 winner in South Africa, who was last seen finishing 10th behind Japanese superstar Almond Eye in the $6 million Dubai Turf (G1) on Dubai World Cup night.
Owned by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, the four-year-old Intello colt was a two-time winner in Britain when previously trained by Sir Michael Stoute.
On his last UK start Gabr finished a noteworthy third in the Group 3 Darley Stakes at Newmarket, having previously won the Listed Foundation Stakes at Goodwood in September.
Watson, who has reasonably high ambitions for his trainee, commented: “He was a bit late coming in, but is a really nice new horse in the yard.
“We hope he’s a Dubai World Cup Carnival horse for next year. He has been training very well and this looked a good opportunity to get a run into him this season. We really like him.”
De Kock saddles four of the 16 including Yulong Prince, Majestic Mambo, Yakeen and Royal Crusade all of whom have raced in the UAE this season.
Another interesting contender is the Rashed Bouresly-owned and trained Ajwad, who was a hugely impressive winner of his last Meydan start over 1,400 metres. However, he will need to cope with the extra 600 metres of today’s race.
Erwan Charpy saddles both Blue Sovereign, a maiden after just four starts, and Logrado, a 2,000-metre dirt Grade 1 winner in his native Argentina, who contested the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 and Group 2 Godolphin Mile.
Charpy said: “The 1,600 metres was too short last time and this 2,000-metre suits him much better. There was not a dirt race for him over this trip, but he has form on turf, so we hope can run well. Blue Sovereign is improving and learning all the time. This is a big step up, but we think he is going to be a nice horse.”
All seven races are sponsored by Meydan’s Pillar Partners, including Gulf News, Longines, Al Tayer Motors and Azizi.
The main support race is the Meydan Mile, sponsored by Azizi Riviera, for which eight have been declared, including the Watson duo Thegreatcollection and Galvanize.
Watson said: “Both are in very good form and ready for their final runs of the season. We would like to hope both have good chances.”
Frenchman Erwan Charpy is also doubly represented with Silver Look and Moqarrar, who made a winning dirt debut when landing a handicap over this course and distance in January.
Charpy said: “We have given Moqarrar a bit of a break and he seems in great form. Drawn one is a bonus and he should run well. Silver Look ran on turf last week, but should be happier back on dirt and should also have a chance.”
Satish Seemar also saddles two runners with stable jockey Richard Mullen on Bochart and champion-elect Tadhg O’Shea partnering Ode to Autumn.
■ 125 jockeys were seen in action during the 2018-2019 UAE Racing Season. As many as 47 of them recorded at least one winner.
■ 398 owners, a record number, raced their horses during the seven-month long racing season
■ 136 trainers were seen in action at the five race courses in the UAE
■ 675 Arabian horses took to the UAE tracks to compete in races specially written for the breed
■ 850 thoroughbreds from around the world were based in the UAE and raced during the exhaustive racing season