Dubai: By his own admission, veteran handler Dhruba Selvaratnam has not enjoyed the kind of season he was hoping for. A tally of six wins from 122 runs is certainly not something that the long-serving boss of Jebel Ali Stables had bargained for.
Yet, there have been the quality performances that have gone a long way to compensate for the frustrating lack of overall success.
Like he has done so often in the past, Selvaratnam has uncovered a knight in shining armour, Morawij, a sprinter of game-changing speed. A seven-year-old son of Exceed And Excel, Morawij has brought home two of the season’s biggest sprint trophies, the Jebel Ali Sprint earlier this year, and on Saturday, the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal, the official prep race for the $2million Dubai Golden Shahen, sponsored by Gulf News, one of the highlights of the $30 million Dubai World Cup card on March 25.
Under Selvaratnam’s astute training programme, Morawij has developed into a powerful thoroughbred athlete, a dirt specialist who is also very consistent and honest. So consistent that he has not finished out of the first four in his last eight starts, including when he was third in the Dubai Golden Shaheen twelve months ago.
‘Great day. Great horse #teamjebelali,’ Selvaratnam’s retained rider Chris Hayes tweeted shortly after his big race victory on an enthralling day’s racing at Meydan on Super Saturday.
Having run third from a bad draw in the Golden Shaheen last March, Hayes made sure he would get into a good position for the 1200 metre contest run over two left-handed turns. Once again, the No. 7 stall was not ideal but an alert Hayes was able to get Morawij into the lead, following what he described as an explosive start by his horse, and the two never looked back, making all to claim victory.
“The 1000m at Jebel Ali is a real test — so the extra 200m here was never an issue,” said Hayes. “We needed to run here to try and get an invitation to come back for the Golden Shaheen.
“If we get a good draw this year, he will be very competitive.
“It’s good for the stable to win races like these given the kind of year that we’ve had. I broke my hand at the start of the season and had to sit it out for a long time. It’s not an ideal situation when can’t even ride work and your boss has to look for riders every week,” he added.
“But hopefully, we can close the season on a high note. It’s something that the whole team at Jebel Ali, who work so hard behind the scenes, deserve more than anything else.”
Selvaratnam, who was finding it difficult to hide his joy, is hoping that Morawij comes out of the race well and stays fit and healthy to take his chances once again in the Golden Shaheen.
“Obviously, the big race will be a different thing altogether as I’m sure we will see some top sprinters coming from America,” said Selvaratnam. “But you have got to be hopeful as your fella has the form over course and distance. So we’ll just do what we have to do between now and March 25 and then hope for the best.”
Leading trainer Doug Watson will not be too disappointed with Cool Cowboy’s performance despite losing by a head, but the horse is extremely versatile and looks an exciting prospect in the Golden Shaheen.
Hong Kong’s Dundonnell, a former turf specialist, confirmed his liking for the dirt with a brave third place effort, It remains to be seen if he receives an invitation for the Golden Shaheen but if he does do, he will be meeting his aforementioned rivals on significantly better terms,