Dubai: Gulf News, one of the pioneering sponsors and promoters of flat-tracing at Meydan, and its predecessor Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, makes its seasonal debut to support an intriguing six-race card at the sport’s UAE headquarters on Thursday evening.
All races will carry the names of different products associated with the region’s leading English-language newspaper, including Baby & Child, gulfnews.com, Friday magazine, Reach by Gulf News, the Gulf News newspaper and InsideOut, a popular interior design magazine.
The meeting kicks off with a fascinating 1,400-metre maiden for juvenile fillies, which has attracted a quality field of five runners all of whom will be making their much-anticipated racecourse debuts.
Former champion trainer Doug Watson is responsible for the two international favourites, Rio Angie and Tapi Sioux.
The former was snapped-up by owner Hamid Radan for a princely sum of $320,000 (Dh1.175 million) at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale in May of this year. Watson’s stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, takes the ride on this interesting contender, who has reportedly putting in some good work on the morning gallops.
Sam Hitchcott, a long-time member of Watson’s multiple championship-winning Red Stables, rides the Ali Al Aneizi-owned Tapi Sioux, the first foal out of Canadian all-weather scorer, Netti Sioux.
Evaluating the chances of his pair, Watson commented: “We like both our two, who have been pleasing us at home and it is a shame we have to run them together, but they are nice fillies.
“Obviously, it is their first racecourse appearance, so a new experience. You do not know the strength of the opposition, but hopefully they can go well.”
Owner Al Aneizi is also represented by Early Motion, a daughter of Into Mischief, who is trained Musabbeh Al Mheiri at Nad Al Sheba’s Oasis 1 stables.
Down On Da Bayou, a half-sister to Watson’s UAE 1000 Guineas and UAE Oaks heroine Polar River, races out of Emirati handler Salem bin Ghadayer’s Fazza Stables, owned by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
The mount of Royston Ffrench was acquired for €190,000 at the Arqana Sale in May.
The field is completed by Majhoola, a first runner for new owners Imperium Racing, who will be ridden by table-topping Connor for Ahmad Bin Harmash.
Gulf News are the sponsors of the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen since its inception in 1996, the featured sprint race on Dubai World Cup night, and Thursday’s Reach By Gulf News handicap is run over the same course and distance.
At least three runners, Lytham St Annes, Pennsylvania Dutch and Rodaini, have strong claims with the last named a Dubai World Cup Carnival winner for owner Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah in February.
His trainer Bin Harmash said: “He is ready for a race. With his rating of 100, there are limited options, so this looks a good spot to get him back in action. He has always shown plenty of speed, so hopefully the trip will suit first time back.”
Watson is once again doubly represented with Lytham St Annes, a dual course and distance winner for Mohamad Khalifa Al Basti, and stable companion Waady will be ridden by of Dane O’Neill, the retained ride to Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, who is seeking a maiden win in the UAE.
Watson said: “They are both training well and we are looking forward to getting them back on the track. It looks a decent race, but we are happy enough with our pair.”
In-form pairing Satish Seemar and Richard Mullen combine with Touch Gold Racing’s Pop The Hood, who be having his first outing for Seemar having previously been trained by Watson.
Assistant trainer, Bhupat Seemar, said: “He is a new horse for us and has been working well at home. He is fit and healthy, so we hope for a good run.”
Watson will having his hands full saddling up half the field in the eight-runner Gulf News handicap over the same 2,000 metres as the Dubai World Cup, including Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid’s Etijaah
The first race is at 6:30pm.