Pakistan Star
Pakistan Star at his new home in trainer Doug Watson's Red Stables. Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: No, he’s not a famous cricketer. He’s a famous horse, at least in Hong Kong.

They say your name says a lot about you so in that case, it would be prudent to give UAE debutant Pakistan Star the respect he’s due when he runs in The Entisar (Listed) at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday evening.

Previously trained by Tony Cruz, and briefly by Paul O’Sullivan in Hong Kong, the seven-year-old son of top sire Shamardal is currently based at Doug Watson’s championship stables in Dubai. A dual Group 1 winner, including the $24 million ($7.4 million) Audemars Piguet QEII Cup at Sha Tin, he is the big international favourite to win Thursday’s feature in the hands of stable jockey Pat Dobbs.

The Intisar is run over the same 2000metre dirt track as the Dubai World Cup (G1) itself, so you would assume that the famous race will be his principal target for the season.

Watson, seeking a fifth win in a race which was first run in 2013, told the ERA: “Pakistan Star has settled in really well and has been a pleasure to deal with. Obviously we need to find out if he handles the dirt in a race; he has worked very nicely on it, but a race is a different matter and we are looking forward to running him.

Pakistan Star has settled in really well and has been a pleasure to deal with. Obviously we need to find out if he handles the dirt in a race; he has worked very nicely on it, but a race is a different matter and we are looking forward to running him

- Doug Watson, celebrated trainer

Watson, who also saddles Just A Penny, a nine-time winner at Jebel Ali Racecourse, added: “Just A Penny has not run at Meydan for a long time, but we thought it worth trying him there; the Jebel Ali Mile and Stakes are currently his main targets.”

Among the main threats to the Watson pair is the Satish Seemar-trained Saltarin Dubai, who was runner-up in this race last year under Richard Mullen. The pair clearly get on well having won a Carnival handicap together in January 2019 following the Listed Curlin Handicap in March 2018.

Seemar also saddles George Villiers, also a Carnival scorer with assistant trainer, Bhupat Seemar saying: “We obviously know conditions suit both our horses and Saltarin Dubai has a very good draw which we can hopefully take advantage of.

“George Villiers ran over a mile a fortnight ago and that was on the sharp side for him, so he will be much happier back at 2000m.”

Meanwhile, Salem bin Ghadayer is three-handed in the contest with stable jockey Royston Ffrench opting to ride For The Top, with Xavier Ziani on Firnas and Ryan Curatolo aboard Montsarrat.

Bin Ghadayer said: “For The Top is definitely one of our very best horses and ran very well against Benbatl last season and then again in a very good race in Saudi Arabia. We hope he is going to have a very good season.

“Firnas was a course and distance winner a month ago for Xavier, but that was just a handicap and this is a stronger race. He is fit and well though as is Montsarrat who needed his comeback run at Jebel Ali. He was not beaten far by George Villiers in January and is better suited by the weights this time.”

Musabbeh Al Mheiri saddled Military Law to win The Entisar under Fernando Jara last year and the duo combine with Casey Jones, already a Meydan winner a fortnight ago.

Completing the strong field is dirt debutant Zaman, the mount of Fernando Jara, who represents trainer Ahmad Bin Harmash.

A field of nine also goes to post for the 1200m Listed Garhoud Sprint, in which Seemar’s Bochart can make a winning seasonal appearance.

The Watson-trained Waady carries a penalty for his February victory in the 1000m Group 2 Meydan Sprint in February and Dane O’Neill reds for his main employer Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.

Watson also brings out veteran My Catch, who seeks to repeat his victory in this race of 2016 under Pat Dobbs. The trainer said: “The draw is far from ideal for My Catch because he loves racing on the rail, as does Bochart who is drawn much closer to it. He will need some luck, but is ready to run.

“Waady has a hefty penalty, but we need to start him somewhere ahead of the carnival and this is a good spot to do that.”

Commenting on Bochart’s chances and the three other stable contenders, Bhupat Seemar said: “All four are in good form and ready to start their campaigns. We have been very lucky with the draw with all drawn between 1-5.

“Bochart is going well at home, as is Switzerland who has the best of the draw. Leading Spirit seems to be improving as he gets older. Behavioral Bias is probably better over 1400m, but this is a chance to get him going.”

GN Selections

Race 1: 1. Dark Of Night , 2 Spirit Of Ligh

Race 2: 1. Zabardast , 2 Anizzah

Race 3: 1. Torno Subito, 2. Imprison

Race 4: 1. Bochart , 2. Waady

Race 5: 1. Pakistan Star , 2. Firnas

Race 6: 1. Rare Ninja , 2. Grand Dubai

Day’s Best: Bochart