Dubai: Doug Watson and Salem Bin Ghadayer, who dominated the season-opening race meet at Jebel Ali Racecourse a fortnight ago, look set to continue their strong runs with some chances as Friday afternoon’s seven-race meeting.
Between them, Watson and Ghadayer won five races at the opener with the former helping himself to three trophies.
Friday’s card is highlighted by a rated conditions stakes event for horses that have not won three races and which may not have attracted the large field that the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) were hoping for, but it still boasts some decent quality among the five runners.
Captain Von Trapp, a horse whose name was inspired by the Austro-Hungarian naval officer and patriarch of the Von Trapp Family Singer from the epic 1965 musical ‘The Sound of Music’, will bid to give Phoenix Thoroughbreds Ltd III a first UAE winner with their 17th local runner.
The mount of Royston Ffrench, who takes the ride for Emirati handler Bin Ghadayer, the four-year-old Trappe Shot colt was twice successful in his native USA when previously trained by Hall of Fame handler Steve Asmussen.
This will be his first start at Jebel Ali having previously raced at Meydan during the 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival where he finishing a close second to Moqarrar in his last outing in February in a 1,600m dirt handicap.
Commenting on his chances Ffrench said: “He has done well over the summer and this look a good opportunity to get him going for the season and to try him at Jebel Ali.”
The biggest threat among his four rivals appears to be Watson-trained dirt debutant Gabr, the mount of Sam Hitchcott, who is sitting in for the injured Pat Dobbs.
Last seen at the end of January, the five-year-old son of Intello previously hit the mark twice when trained in Britain by Michael Stoute.
One of these wins came in the Listed Foundation Stakes at Goodwood.
Watson, who appears to have his yard in good order early in the season, said: “He is a nice horse and has been working well. It is a small field and looks the ideal platform from which to build his season.”
Gabr is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, who sponsors the mile through his breeding arm, Shadwell.
However, Sheikh Hamdan’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill has opted to partner Eqtiraan for former champion trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.
A gelded son of Helmet who was formerly trained by Richard Hannon when based in Britain, the six-year-old is yet to break his duck in the UAE after 13 starts.
Al Rayhi also saddles Sheikh Hamdan’s third runner, Mashaheer, the choice of stable jockey Connor Beasley over Zaajer, the mount of Sandro Paiva.
The main support race, a Shadwell Farm handicap over 1800m, will also be contested by six runners including the Watson duo of Just A Penny and Grand Argentier.
The former, the mount of Hitchcott, is a genuine course specialist with all his eight career victories coming on the course.
In contrast, Grand Argentier has only raced once at Jebel Ali which was four years ago in December 2016.
However, he EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club) galloper has won four times at Meydan, most recently in a 1,900m Carnival handicap in January.
Justin Byrne, who created the racing syndicate and remains its driving force said: “He did not seem to like Jebel Ali, but that was a long time ago and a lot of work has been carried out on the surface since. The race reopened as there were so few entries, there is not much for him at Meydan at the moment, so we thought it was worth a go.”
Royston Ffrench chooses to ride Bin Ghadayer-trainee Montsarrat, a dual winner of the 1,950m Jebel Ali Stakes who is seeking a hat-trick in that Listed contest.
The meeting opens with a Purebred Arabian handicap sponsored by Al Sahel Contracting, which has typically attracted a field of 15 runners led by multiple champion trainer Ernst Oertel’s AF Heraqle.
Race 1: 1. Af Heraqle, 2. Af Athabeh
Race 2: 1, Lake Causeway, 2. Miracle Maker
Race 3: 1. Fraserburgh, 2. Maqaadeer
Race 4: 1, Gabr, 2, Captain Von Trapp
Race 5: 1. Grand Argentier, 2. Montsarrat
Race 6: 1. Torno Subito, 2. Al Hadeer
Race 7: 1. Untold Secret, 2. Welford
Day’s Best: Gabr