The action returns to Jebel Ali Racecourse Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Trainer Nicholas Bachalard is looking forward to the 2021-2022 UAE racing season, which kicks-offs off with an attractive seven-race card at Jebel Ali Racecourse on Friday, with renewed optimism.

Resident trainer at the popular venue, Bachalard will have the services of former UAE Champion jockey Richard Mullen who has been announced as the new stable jockey. Together, they are preparing for a season like no other.

Revelling in the excitement and build-up to the first day’s action, Bachalard said: “To have someone like Richard on board given his experience and knowledge of racing in the country is amazing, We have a nice bunch of horses, both young and old, in the yard and we look forward to what we hope will be a decent season for the stables.”

Jockey Richard Mullen is the new stable jockey at Jebel Ali

Mullen, who described his appointment at Jebel Ali as a “dream job”, said: “I had my first ever ride in the UAE for the stable back in 1998 and it feels like I’ve come full circle. This is a big honour and privilege and I look forward to doing my best.”

Mullen has spent 16 seasons in the UAE most of which were spent as stable jockey to the Zabeel Stables where he was crowned leading jockey on several occasions.

The Dubai Government has outlined plans to ease COVID restrictions after an extended period of race meetings which were conducted behind closed doors, allowing the five racecourses in the UAE to welcome fans back.

After Jebel Ali, Sharjah hosts a six-race card on Saturday, with Meydan Racecourse, the headquarters of the sport in the UAE, swinging into action on Thursday, November 4. Al Ain Racecourse stages its first meeting on November 5 with Abu Dhabi set to launch its season on November 7.

If all goes to plan, the 2021-2022 UAE racing season is going to be one of non-stop and high-class action.

Here are some of the things to look forward to at the Jebel Ali Racecourse on Friday.

Pitch perfect

Following strategic modifications and restoration works conducted on the historic racetrack in 2020 Jebel Ali is likely to serve up some thrilling action.

Spectators will have a unique panoramic view of the left-handed horseshoe track which is regarded as one of the most testing tracks in the UAE.

One of the standout features is the steep incline to the finish which presents a supreme test for both horse and rider. Horses with the ability to change gears and find more will prevail.

Shareef Al Halawani briefs media on the track condition at Jebel Ali Racecourse
Shareef Al Halawani at Jebel Ali Racecourse

All around improvement

“Our racetrack has improved and settled down nicely following the well-planned and executed modifications that we carried out,” said Shareef Al Halawani, General Manager of Jebel Ali, who helped build the track in the early 1990s.

“It has significantly stood up to the tests and challenges last season and looks and rides great. All issues have been addressed and we are ready to go.

“We have revamped areas around the track and could not be more than happy to welcome back our loyal fans, once the authorities give us the green signal.’

Strong support

The opening day’s action promises to be a memorable afternoon with Emirates kicking off their aggressive sporting sponsorship programme in the UAE by lending their name to the seven races on the card which carry a total purse of close to half a million dirhams.

The action is due to get under way at 1.45pm with the feature event of the afternoon being a 1,200m sprint. Former Godolphin-trained Sharamm, who Mullen rides for his old boss Satish Seemar in the colours of Maj Gen Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police and Public Security and owner of Jebel Ali Racecourse, looks the pick of the 12 runner-field that also features Ababil representing seven-time UAE Champion trainer Doug Watson.

ERA backing

Yasir Mabrouk, the Emirates Racing Authority Clerk of the Scales, said: “Jebel Ali has always been the most crowd-friendly racetrack and we look forward to having the stands full in the coming weeks after making sure all of the prescribed health and safety protocols are met.

“We have a very good racecard to start the season and it has drawn together some of the best divisional names so we look forward to a very exciting afternoon of racing that is sure to thrill and a season that is bound to unearth some truly champion names in all spheres. The ERA looks forward to supporting the Jebel Ali management in all its endeavours to deliver another memorable season.”