After a 17-day break from racing, the Emirates hosts four meetings this weekend and HH Sheikh Hamdan has runners at three of them, having declared 23 horses across the weekend.
The action begins with a six race card at Meydan on Thursday, at which the turf track opens up for the first time this season. There are two races on it, including race three, a very competitive nine furlong handicap, in which HH Sheikh Hamdan runs four. The highest-rated among them is Gabr, who beat the re-opposing Eqtiraan in a mile Conditions race at Jebel Ali in November. He is the choice of retained rider Dane O’Neill over Muzdawaj.
Musabbeh Al Mheiri’s eight-year-old already has a course and distance win to his name, and is three pounds higher than when scoring here in February 2019. Third in Group 3 company when last seen at Abu Dhabi in March, his only unplaced run over this track and trip came in Group 1 company so he can’t be dismissed. Similar comments apply to Eqtiraan, who ran much better, beaten less than three lengths into fourth, in the Listed National Day Cup a month ago.
Jaaref ran well when third, over 11 furlongs, at Abu Dhabi last time and this drop in trip won’t inconvenience him. A light weight will also be to his advantage and he can go well from a likely forward position under rider Sandro Paiva.
The six furlong dirt handicap, race two, includes Fanaar, who goes here for Doug Watson. Down in grade after being well-held from a wide draw in the National Day Cup at Abu Dhabi, the five-year-old is well-respected by his trainer but might find this tough on his first run at this trip since August 2018. He will be ridden by O’Neill from a nice draw in four in the field of ten.
Dual Listed winner Taamol, ahead of Fanaar in the National Day Cup, where he was fifth, also goes here for Al Rayhi. A winner on dirt here over seven furlongs, he is capable of running another good race but seems to save his best for the turf these days. The third Shadwell runner in the race is Moqarrab, for Al Mheiri, who was a good third over seven furlongs last time out, having been drawn wide. Talented on his day, he might be able to make the frame again.
Mutamaasik, winner of four of his nine starts in the UK for Roger Varian, makes his local debut for Watson in the mile dirt handicap, race five. A son of Dubawi, most of his sire’s progeny act well on this surface but it remains to be seen how well he has adapted to local life. His opponents include Alkaamel, who drops in grade from Listed company. A 13.5-length course and distance winner last season, this is his easiest start since that win and he is respected here, from stall one with just 53kgs to carry.
The final race is a Longines-sponsored five furlong turf handicap in which Shadwell run six, including Eshaasy for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. Well-beaten, after missing the break, at Jebel Ali on his local debut, he is likely to be better-suited to this turf assignment having been a winner on good to firm at Sandown in the UK back in July. However, he has been overlooked by O’Neill in favour of stablemate Tashaaboh, who was behind the re-opposing Alfolk in 11th at Abu Dhabi last time out. The Lethal Force gelding makes his second start here at Meydan and can go well if able to return to the form which saw him finish third to Rocket Power, over seven furlongs, on his local debut in April 2019.
For his part, Alfolk looks to be nearing a win. The South African Group 3 winner ran well to finish fourth at Abu Dhabi last time out and a return to this minimum trip should play to his strengths. He will be ridden by Pat Dobbs from a wide draw in 16.
Al Mheiri runs Shajjy, who is still looking for his first local win but has been second here, over six furlongs, before, and Taneen. The latter made a promising seasonal debut when sixth, beaten four lengths, behind stablemate Dahawi at Jebel Ali three weeks’ ago. He has good form on this course in the past and looks interesting off a mark of 85; nine pounds lower than his last win.
Etisalat, well-held on both his starts this season, makes his first start on turf since finishing a good fourth here over six furlongs in February. Yet to win in five tries on this surface, the six-year-old grey lines up under Paiva from post three.
Jebel Ali hosts a seven-race card on Friday which features Masaali, who looked useful when winning a maiden on his second career start In November. The Hard Spun gelding returns for his handicap debut over nine and a half furlongs in race two and is the least experienced in the field. He can go well again up against hardened handicappers including Tafaakhor, the choice of O’Neill, who now looks well-handicapped on the best of his form, which includes a win here over nine furlongs in November 2019.
Almoreb got back to winning ways with a seven furlong win here in November, and Al Rayhi’s gelding returns to the same trip on Friday in race five. This is tougher, but he should show up well again. His rivals include the Watson-trained pair of Bawaasil, whose best efforts have come on turf of late, and Eshtiraak, who ran his best race for some time when third to stablemate Habah over a mile here three weeks’ ago.
The concluding six furlong handicap looks one of the more open races on the card. Fawaareq tops the weights and the Watson trainee arguably deserves a win, having finished placed on both starts this season, including when beaten just a neck into third two weeks’ ago. Two pounds higher for that effort, he should again go close with blinkers now added.
Mashaheer’s best UAE runs have come on turf, so he will appreciate a return to that at Abu Dhabi on Sunday, where he contests the closing seven furlong handicap. Placed here twice, he has a nice racing weight of 54.5kgs for this task. His rivals include Alkhat, who has moved to Erwan Charpy from John Gosden in the UK. A three-year-old son of Oasis Dream, he has won one of three starts and runs here for the first time since a gelding operation.