Dubai: The focus will be on the new team at Jebel Ali Stables when the popular venue hosts its first meeting of the 2020-2021 UAE racing season on Friday.
Former American handler and abstract artist Seth Benzel has been appointed assistant trainer to Nicholas Bachalard with globetrotting French ace Ryan Curatolo coming in as stable jockey.
Bachalard has a string of approximately 50 horses, two of which, Baalbek and Sadeedd, will be seen in action on Friday.
Mohammad Al Shehhi, UAE racing manager to Jebel Ali Racecourse owner Major General Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police and Public Security, was looking forward to the team making a fresh start this season.
“Nicholas has a new team that is coming together nicely,” he said. “We have the very experience Seth Benzel joining us from America and an experienced jockey in Ryan Curatolo. Hopefully we have fixed all the issues concerning the environment and racetrack and are looking forward to having a good season.”
Racing will be held behind closed doors as the racecourse management will follow strict limitations and controls on who can attend the race meets.
To safeguard public health and minimise the spread of COVID-19 only jockeys, trainers, stable staff and racing officials will be present.
Trophies will be presented to only the winning jockey and trainer.
The feature race of the afternoon is a Dh100,000 Shadwell-sponsored Conditions event in which six horses will face the starter.
The field is led by the Helal Al Alawi-trained Mystery Land, a four-year-old son of Sea The Stars who won his only career start at Jebel Ali in March this year. He will be ridden by Patrick Cosgrave.
Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, who sponsors the race through his breeding arm, Shadwell, is responsible for two runners, Moqtarreb and Haafel who look to have strong claims.
While the former races out of the Meydan-based championship winning stables of Ali Rashid Al Raihe, Haafel represents his brother-in-law and neighbour Musabah Al Muhairi.
The meeting kicks off with a competitive looking seven-furlong handicap where the Doug Watson-trained Guernsey appeals the most, having finished second in all three of his starts last season.
Formerly raced by South African Mike de Kock, the six-year-old is looking for his first win in four years but on the evidence of his strong form last season, should end the wait for another visit to the winner’s enclosure.
The meeting concludes with a 12-runner handicap over 1,800 metres, a race in which Watson saddles the two leading hopefuls, Meqdam and Magaadeer.
Race 1 1. Guernsey, 2. Apollo Kid
Race 2 1. Bladesmith, 2. Leadership
Race 3 1. Just A Penny, 2. Alkaamel
Race 4 1. Mystery Land, 2. Moqtarreb
Race 5 1. Dahawi, 2. Mutaraffa
Race 6 1. What A Metal, 2. Sadeedd.
Race 7 1. Meqdam, 2. Skygazer
Day’s Best: Dahawi.