Dubai: Twenty-six years ago, when Doug Watson hopped on to transatlantic flight from his native Chicago that was headed for Dubai, little did he know his life would one day change in an unbelievable way.
That day happened in 2004 when Watson was handed charge of the championship-winning Red Stables in central Dubai, after trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said goodbye and relocated to the US.
Three years later, Watson would win the first of his six UAE trainer’s championships that would go a long way into establishing him as a force to be reckoned with.
In subsequent years, the American with a big smile, enjoyed numerous successes, including winning 17 Group races topped by the Group 1 Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night, big wins at each of the UAE’s five racecourses and several four-timers.
But on Thursday night at a Gulf News-sponsored race meeting at Meydan Racecourse, his stars would align and see him sweep all six races, a feat that had never been accomplished in the UAE racing history.
Rio Angie triggered Watson’s landmark day winning the fillies’ maiden before Trenchard and Mulfit quickly brought up the hat-trick.
Any hopes Watson’s rivals nursed of grabbing a share of the spotlight were emphatically quashed by the Red Stables trio of Waady, Tried And True and Midnight Sands in the final three races.
Ever so often it is hard to measure how humble a person is, but Watson gave us a fair indication of the extent of his humility when he said: “It was a great night, luck goes your way sometimes,” he said. “We have such a great team at home and to win six races for five different owners goes to show home much of support we receive from them.
“No trainer can do this without the staff, the jockeys and of course the owners.
“We have such a great team at home and this is down to them, the staff, the jockeys and of course the owners. This was such a big team effort.”
Watson, who during his younger days worked at Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky, first came to the UAE in 1993 to test the waters.
“I wasn’t sure, when I got the call to come and work with Satish (Seemar),” said the popular handler. “Then the opportunity came to be an assistant to Kiaran McLaughlin and obviously prior to the 2003-2005 UAE racing season I was given the chance of a lifetime to take over the Red Stables by the Al Maktoum Family.”
“As they say, the rest is history. But, look, I have to thank so many people. Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, in particular. Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, Hamid Radan, whose been with us since the beginning, the EERC, the list just goes on and on.”
For someone who has accomplished so much, in such a short time, you would wonder if they still had dreams.
“I think everybody who over here, and even those who are not, want to win the Dubai World Cup,” he said. “For someone who drove the ambulance at the first World Cup in 1996, it was a dream to have a runner in the race, we did with Candy Boy.
“It’s every, owner and trainers’ dream to have a horse that can compete in the Dubai World Cup, it’s is an amazing experience and that’ would still be the main goal.”
Watson also revealed that what would also excite him would be to take a horse to America, who he grew up grooming horses.
“I don’t want to train in America, what I have here in Dubai is one of the best jobs in the world,” he said. “The Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) give us so many opportunities like the state-of-the-art facilities and the people around you contribute so much to the team.
“But I would love to take a two-year-old to the Kentucky Oaks one day and if need be, hand the horse over to a trainer like Kiaran, or to have him run in my name. That’s always something that been in the back of my mind, since I’ve had these nice two-year-olds,” he added.
“But like I said, just have to work at a stable like the one we have and to have all those nice opportunities and to see the phenomenal expanse of Dubai and the Emirates, has been life changing for me. But we’re not done yet. We have another long season to look forward to and lost of responsibilities.
Sherlock Holmes famously said to Watson in the Classic mystery novels and films: “Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons, with the greatest for the last.”
The same could relate to Doug, who will fulfil a life’s ambition if he wins the Dubai World Cup.