Dubai: Champion trainer Doug Watson continued his love affair with the Meydan dirt track as bargain-purchase Drafted landed the first pattern race of the season at the racecourse to advertise his credentials for the fast-approaching 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
The American handler’s string has simply thrived at the dirt track ever since it replaced the much-maligned all-weather surface which was aimed to usher in a new era of racing at the iconic venue.
Watson has outscored his peers at Meydan, including former boss, Satish Seemar, with whom he appears to be enjoying a friendly rivalry for top honours.
Seemar, who trains out of the state-of-the-art Zabeel Stables in the heart of Dubai, currently leads the trainer’s championship with 12 winners. However, Watson has the drop on him with a higher success rate at Meydan.
Drafted, the second of Watson’s two winners on an exciting night’s racing sponsored by Al Tayer Motors, took the likeable handler into double digits.
It was unquestionably an action-packed day’s racing at Meydan on Thursday, with the featured Al Garhoud Sprint, an early pointer to the major sprint races that are to follow, having racegoers on the edge of their seats.
Watson’s trainee was ridden with supreme confidence by Sam Hitchcott, a long-time associate at the Red Stables which once was the home of multiple champion trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Hitchcott timed his run to perfection to edge leader Ibn Malik, the mount of Ben Cuties in the shadow of the post It was the jockey’s second success of the night for Watson, having earlier teamed up with Powderhouse to win the day’s opening race, the Lincoln MKZ Trophy.
Formerly owned by Godolphin, the four-year-old was sold for a modest Dh40,000 at the Racing In Dubai Sale, and his duly repaid the smart investment of Misty Hollow Farm with his exciting Meydan victory.
The Canadian-bred son of Field Commission also eclipsed high-quality sprinters such as stable companion and Group 3 winner Kimbear, track record-setting Raven’s Corner and Fazza Stable’s promising sprinter High on Life.
The Garhoud Sprint is always regarded as an ideal Dubai World Cup Carnival prep with the Group 3 Dubawi Stakes on January 3 and Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 on January 10, as the next stops for the high performers,
After receiving his usual dose of handshakes from friends and rivals at Meydan, Watson said: “He was missing the break a bit last season, so we decided to take the visor off and he has broken much better today.
“Sam has given him a great ride and timed his challenge perfectly. Drafted has probably tired in the final stages, but hung on gamely.
“Kimbear has also run very well over this shorter trip and that should put him spot on for the first round of the Maktoum Challenge in five weeks. Drafted will go on to the Dubawi.”
Juvenile contests have become a major attraction in the Meydan programme and the Lincoln handicap once more delivered an winner for news-making Phoenix Ladies Syndicate’s through Walking Thunder.
Already an eye-catching winner here, the son of Violence toyed with his opponents to post an impressive win under Connor Beasley for trainer Ahmad Bin Harmash.
“Over 1,400m the first time, I was keen to be positive and teach him. Today was a further education about seeing out the 1,600m,” Beasley said. “It all went to plan. For an inexperienced youngster, he has a remarkably professionally attitude and he strikes as a smart horse. Stepping up in class next year, we will hope he can build on this.”
Connections have indicated that he likely to have his next start in either the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial on January 10 or UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) on February 7.
The longest race on the card, the 2,200m Lincoln MKC handicap produced a comfortable winner in Heraldic under Richard Mullen.
“To be honest, making the running was probably not the plan, but nobody else seemed to want to lead, so I was then happy to,” Mullen said. “We went quite quick initially, but I was able to get a breather into him and then he has really battled all the way to the line.”
The trainer would complete a double with the victory of Cachao in the 1,600m handicap, the Lincoln MKX, which attracted a full field of 16.