Dubai: The wait is over, it’s finally here — the landmark 2019-2020 UAE flat racing season.
As the clock strikes 6.30pm on Thursday evening, the season will officially open with the first of 67 race meetings that will be spread across the country’s five racecourses — Meydan, Jebel Ali, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Al Ain.
Together, over 400 races for both thoroughbreds and Purebred Arabians will take place culminating in the epic 25th running of the $35 million Dubai World Cup meeting on March 28, at the iconic Meydan Racecourse.
This is the 29th professional racing season since the formation of the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) in 1992, a federation that his bloomed into one of the most highly regarded on this planet.
The opening day
Racegoers will get a peek of what’s in store over the next six months at Meydan’s curtain raiser on Thursday, which is supported by Pillar Partner, Emirates airline.
The action kicks off with the Emirates Holidays Maiden Stakes for which seven horses, ll of whom have yet to compete at a racecourse, will make their eagerly awaited debuts. Among the ones to keep an eye on are the Satish Seemar-trained and $178,774 Tattersalls Craven Breeze-Up Sale purchase, Barack Beach, Cosmo Kramer representing Doug Watson, who went under the hammer at $80,000 at the Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky July Yearling Sale of 2018 and Ali Rashid Al Rayhi’s modest $68,759 colt Al Modayar.
Fazza Racing Stables of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, is represented by the $180,000 OBS acquisition Attribution, who is prepared by Salem Bin Ghadayer.
Ahmad Bin Harmash, who won this feature last season, sends out the well-bred Phoenix Ladies Syndicate contender Mambo Mischief, a $150,000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales purchase, who has reportedly been training well.
The new Jebel Ali Stables pairing of Nicholas Bachalard and champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea will make their debut with Laa Baas, secured for $123,767 at the Craven sale.
New look races
As many as seven races have been upgraded for the 2019-2020 season at Meydan Racecourse, including six during the Dubai World Cup Carnival, which kicks off on January 2, 2020.
The first of the black type fixtures starts on opening night with the $175,000 Dubai Racing Club Classic, which will be run over 2,410 metres on turf as well as the $175,000 Meydan Challenge over 1400m on turf.
Middle-distance turf runners will come under the spotlight a fortnight later in the $175,000 Zabeel Turf over 2000m, while Turf sprinters will face the starter in the $175,000 Dubai Dash over 1,000 metres on week four on January 23. The $175,000 Meydan Cup will take place a week later over 2,180 metres as on the other end of the spectrum — the speedballs with bid to lay down a marker in the $175,000 Dubai Sprint over 1,200 metres on February 8.
It is understood that all the upgraded DWC Carnival races are seen as preps for the Dubai World Cup night programme, en route to Super Saturday on March 7.
The Arabians have not been overlooked with the Listed 1,900 metres Madjani Stakes taking place on December 19.
Tadgh O’Shea dons yellow silks
Six-time UAE campion jockey Tadhg O’Shea described his appointment as first jockey to the Jebel Ali Stables of Major General Shaikh Ahmad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police and Public Security, as a ‘privilege.’
“A lot of illustrious names have ridden in those silks and I feel privileged to have been approached by Nicholas Bachalard and Mohammad Al Shahi (Racing Manager) to be offered the position,” O’Shea said.
“It’s a new yard and new season for me, my weight is good and I feel great.
“I’ve been very lucky to ride for some tremendous owners and trainers and I approach it without any goals, really. First and foremost, I want to stay in one piece and then I’d like to ride in as many races as I can.”
Given all the elements, the 2019-2020 UAE flat racing season looks set to be a compelling and entertaining one.
A BREAKDOWN OF THE SEASON
Meydan Racecourse: 23 race days
Highlight — G1 Dubai World Cup (March 28)
Colour code — Blue
Jebel Ali racecourse: 11
Highlight — G2 Jebel Ali Stakes
Colour code — Yellow
Abu Dhabi racecourse: 15
Highlight — HH The President Cup
Colour code — Green
Sharjah Longines Racecourse: 6
Highlight — HH The Ruler of Sharjah Cup
Al Ain Racecourse: 12
Colour code — Purple
Highlight — Al Ain Sprint