Dubai: It was not the ending any trainer would want for a special horse running in the final race of his career.
But Doug Watson was still pumping out the respect and heaping praise on his stable star Shamal Nibras who was narrowly denied a swansong victory at Jebel Ali Racecourse on Friday afternoon.
As if he was aware that it was his final act before the curtain dropped, Shamal Nibras ran an absolute blinder in the Jebel Ali Classic (Silver Jubilee) sponsored by Shadwell, only to be caught on the line by stable companion Thegreatcollection, ridden by the Flying Dutch, Adrie de Vries.
Pat Dobbs, who has partnered Shamal Nibras more times than he can remember, appeared to have the race won, but it was not to be.
A happy ending is not always guaranteed, certainly not in sport.
“I was absolutely gutted,” acknowledged Watson. “He’s been such a great servant of the yard and has given his owners (EERC) so many memorable moments. It would have been great, had it won, but that’s racing.
“He now be retired in Ireland. Horses deserve a nice post-racetrack life and to be taken care of in retirement.”
An evergreen 11-year-old Shamal Nibras raced 26 times for Watson since he arrived at his Red Stables in 2014, winning seven times, including twice in the Jebel Ali Classic in 2017 and 2018 and the Listed Jebel Ali Mile in 2018.
Thegreatcollection, who comprised the middle leg of Watson’s three-timer, was having his first start at Jebel Ali having done all his racing at Meydan where he won three times, including the Meydan Mile in 2019.
Racing was contested at Jebel Ali without spectators but under regular regulated ERA rules. Results were recorded officially.
Watson agreed that it was the right thing to do when dealing with the pandemic events which have engulfed the world, but felt that it was also important to move on.
“First of all, you have all the American horses who came in straight from Saudi Arabia (after the $20m Saudi Cup),” said the 26-year-veteran of UAE racing. “So they’re all here.
“Even if more horses do not come from America or Japan it will still be a nice World Cup.
“This is a crazy time in the world with what’s going on, but I’m sure the authorities will take care to protect all the jockeys and people who will be there on the day,” he added.
“I don’t know how I will feel if I do win a race because I think of all the people in the world who are struggling at the moment.
“Today, so many people tried to shake my hand, but I felt it would be rude (not to), But you’ve got to be careful these days.”
Watson also admitted that he was ‘looking forward to next Saturday,’ March 28.
“We’ve got some nice chances on Dubai World Cup day to place or win. Hopefully it goes on.”
Sportsmen take great pride in paying tribute to their peers and Watson took the opportunity to commend former boss and principal rival, Satish Seemar, for what has been a ‘fantastic’ season.
“Satish has had a remarkable season,” he said. “He’s got a lot of horses, but he’s really done well with them and helped them keep their form all season.
“Hats off to him, Bhupat (assistant) and the team at Zabeel Stables. They have done a great job.”