Ekhtiyaar: looks to be the one to beat in the Listed Dubai Sprint
We are at the halfway point of the Dubai World Cup Carnival and HH Sheikh Hamdan runs seven horses on Thursday’s seven-race card at Meydan.
Moqarrab leads the charge in race two, the first division of the seven furlong turf handicap. Trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri, the five-year-old was well-held over six furlongs last time out, but has won twice over this trip and should be competitive here.
The team has a strong chance in the Listed Dubai Sprint, race five, with Ekhtiyaar very much the one to beat once again. Impressive in handicap company over course and distance last month, Doug Watson’s charge should be able to cope with this rise in grade, despite having to concede weight to his eight rivals.
They include Rusumaat, the mount of Dane O’Neill, who was a good third over five furlongs two weeks ago. A winner twice at this distance, he should again give a good account and cannot be dismissed.
Ali Al Rayhi runs Eqtiraan, who hasn’t been seen since two quick runs in November. A Listed winner when in the UK and Listed-placed in the UAE, he drops in trip to a distance which he has been successful over twice.
Al Rayhi also saddles Jaaref in the nine furlong turf handicap, race six. The seven-year-old makes a quick return, having finished down the field over ten furlongs last week on his first start of the season.
The concluding seven furlong handicap sees two line up for the Shadwell team and Jim Crowley has opted to ride Tashweeq for Al Mheiri. The Big Bad Bob gelding returned from a two year absence to romp away with a seven furlong handicap last time out and the seven pound rise sees him re-enter the Carnival with a huge chance as he still looks a well-handicapped horse.
Mujaafy runs in the same race for Mike De Kock and O’Neill. Having his third start here in Dubai, he should have improved from his recent run over six furlongs and tries this distance for the first time.
Jebel Ali stages a seven-race card on Friday and Sheikh Hamdan runs five. Dalaalaat ran a good race in fourth over this trip here last time and has top weight in the seven furlong handicap, race five. That was his first start on dirt and he should have improved for the experience.
He is the mount of Crowley over Eshtiraak, who ran well on turf last time but was well-beaten on his only Jebel Ali start so far. Down three pounds in the handicap, he’s not dismissed on this second attempt here.
Tadbir, the mount of Pat Cosgrave, is also looking well-handicapped, running here off a three pound lower mark than when he won a good Conditions race over course and distance in November. He has drawn well in three, but has been well-held in three starts since his win.
The concluding five furlong handicap looks strong and Alfolk tops the weights for Crowley and Watson. He drops in grade slightly, having run a good race over six furlongs at Meydan last time, but has struggled on both starts to date at Jebel Ali.
Alraased, by contrast, loves the track and the ten-year-old is back at his best distance here. Down to a mark of 69, four pounds lower than his last win, he has an opportunity to cause an upset here, under jockey Bernardo Pinheiro.
Abu Dhabi stages the Listed President’s Cup for Thoroughbreds and the G1 version for Arabians on Sunday and Shadwell have three runners in the former. They include Taamol, the mount of Crowley, who won the National Day Cup here in December. A good fourth at the Carnival since then, he carries no penalty and is one of those to beat here, from a good draw in two.
Yaalail also has strong credentials, having won over course and distance in December and followed that up with three good efforts at the Carnival. A forward-going sort, stall 11 will make things tricky for O’Neill but they cannot be ruled out.
The third Shadwell runner is Zainhom, who is probably over his best trip here but arrives after a disappointing effort, when he faded quickly, at Jebel Ali two weeks’ ago.
The Purebred Arabians’ President’s Cup is worth AED2.5Million and is one of the highlights of the season in the Capital. It was won last year by Al Zahir who makes his seasonal debut here, under Crowley. Trained by Ali Al Rayhi, the chestnut can go well fresh but nevertheless the absence is a concern and he will need to be at the top of his game in such a high class race.