The spotlight returns to Meydan on Thursday when the UAE’s flagship racecourse hosts a seven-race card featuring the first of many Group races for Purebred Arabians in the form of the Bani Yas. The other six races on the card are dedicated to thoroughbreds and appear to be entertaining contests. The action shifts to Al Ain Racecourse on Friday with another stacked seven-race card for Purebred Arabians. Gulf News picks out five races that should have you sitting on the edge of your sets, at home or at the racecourse.
1. Bani Yas (Group 2) Sponsored By Dubai Police
Meydan Racecourse, 7pm, Purebred Arabians. Distance 1,400m Purse: Dh97,500
The first major pattern race on the rich Purebred Arabian calendar, the Bani Yas traditionally attracts the top horses of the breed who will be looking to make an early impression. A compact field of eight is set to face the starter with seasoned campaigners Rb Rich Lyke Me, former Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown Prep scorer. Rb Torch and last-outing winner Mh Rahal are the ones to watch. But the race is by no means lacking in depth with the likes of Rb Kinsman, Cheik Roque, and Af Al Sajanjle also meriting attention.
GN Selections: 1. Rb Rich Lyke Me. 2. Rb Torch
2. Dubai Health Authority Conditions Stakes
Meydan, 9pm, Thoroughbreds. Distance: 1,400m. Purse; Dh95,000
The feature race at Meydan sees last season’s UAE Oaks star Mnasek make her seasonal debut for champion trainer Doug Watson in what looks a somewhat soft test for a horse with her ability. However, these are still early days in the season and a lot will depend on how she has shaped over the Winter months. Mnasek won the Oaks in imperious fashion coming home more than six lengths clear of her rivals in February but has not raced since. She will have the services of Watson’s stable jockey Pat Dobbs. Others to note in the race are former UK-based Miami Joy who represents Emirati handler Ismail Mohammed, and stable companion Faithful Soldier, who won his maiden at Jebel Ali Racecourse in March. Rashed Bouresly’s Hawa Bilady is another interesting contender having shown ability when scoring at Jebel Ali in March.
GN Selections: 1, Mnasek. 2, Miami Joy
3. Dubai Media Incorporated Handicap
Meydan Racecourse, 10pm, Thoroughbreds. Distance: 1,200m. Purse: Dh92,500
The racing ends with a bang with a 1,200 metre sprint that has the potential to be a thriller. A field of 13 line-ups in the opening-looking contest with Doug Watson once again saddling a landing contender in two-time Jebel Ali scorer Abibil. The son of Elusive Quality has raced six times, all of them in the UAE, but makes his Meydan return for the first time under Watson’s care. Abibil faces a stern test from promising sprinters Wufud, Wasari and Quiet Encounter.
GN Selections: 1. Abibil. 2, Wufud
4. Al Markhaniya Handicap
Al Ain, Friday, 8pm, Purebred Arabians. Distance: 1,400m. Purse; Dh85,000
The concluding race at Al Ain on Friday evening has attracted a field of 12 with Majed Al Jahouri’s Atrash looking to continue from where he left off last season when winning in tidy fashion at Sharjah. The lightly raced and UAE-bred son of French stallion Tidjari Des Forges, Atrash has won two of his four career starts but did not acquit himself when finishing down the field in his only start at Al Ain in February last year. He is known to run well when fresh and should continue the fine form of Brazilian jockey Bernardo Pinheiro who has already booted home six winners this season. However, this represents a big step up in class for Atrash who takes on higher-rated campaigners Avez De Pine and Octave.
GN Selections: 1. Atrash. 2. Avez De Pine
5. Wathba Stallions Cup
Al Ain, Friday, 5pm, Purebred Arabians. Distance: 2,000m. Purse: Dh70,000
The meeting opens with the always competitive Wathba Stallions Cup which is run under the umbrella of the Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Flat Racing Festival, a middle-distance contest that has drawn a field of 11 starters. Leading Purebred Arabian handler Ernst Oertel sends out last-outing winner AF Mahzamy, with seven-time champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea on board. Bred by champion breeder Khalid Al Nabooda, the son of AF Al Buraq is seeking a third successive win and should he produce the sort of performance he delivered on his last visit to Al Ain in the Derby, will be hard to beat.
GN Selections: 1. AF Mahzamy. 2. Mujahid