Crowley set to return with Shadwell horses in red-hot form

Laura king analyses this week's runners in the UAE
Jim Crowley, pictured aboard MOHAATHER, returns to ride in the UAE this week

A fine weekend for HH Sheikh Hamdan saw him move up to third in the UAE Owners’ Championship, after a stunning treble at Meydan on Thursday evening.

Each of the winners are trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, whose dual Listed winner Taamol bounced back to his best under Connor Beasley in the six furlong dirt handicap. Beasley was also onboard Eqtiraan, who put together a fine front-running display in the nine furlong turf race, before Etisalat gave jockey Sandro Paiva a surprise win in the five furlong turf handicap.

The Shadwell team have a busy few days in store, with 16 runners across the four meetings once again taking place across the UAE. Number one retained rider Jim Crowley returns from the UK to share duties with Dane O’Neill, and will be in action from Saturday.

The action gets underway with a seven race card at Meydan on Thursday, in which Almoreb will aim to continue his good form this season. Third at Jebel Ali last Friday over seven furlongs, he goes over the same distance here, facing 15 rivals in race two. Yet to win at this track, he was fourth over course and distance in November and won’t be far away again, although he does have to concede weight all round.

Almoreb will be ridden by Sandro Paiva, with O’Neill opting instead for Mayaadeen, who won over this track and trip two starts ago, following that up with another good showing when sixth a month ago. These conditions will suit him again and he can make his presence felt from a good draw in four.

Sheikh Hamdan runs seven in the concluding seven furlong Mina Rashid Handicap, on turf. The top rated of them is Mutamaasik, who is well-regarded by the Doug Watson team. Smart in the UK for Roger Varian, where he racked up a sequence of four wins in 2019, he is very interesting on this local bow, with Meydan’s fast turf course likely to suit him. He is the pick of O’Neill, despite a wide draw in 11.

Mutamaasik’s stablemate Fanaar has been a shade disappointing so far for Doug Watson, but the best of his UK turf form would see him go close, while stablemate Motafaawit, a couple of places ahead of Fanaar when they met at Abu Dhabi last time, is coming down the handicap and is another who can be competitive.

Musabbeh Al Mheiri’s Tashweeq has finished first and second on his last two runs over course and distance and can’t be discounted either, although this is his first run of the season. The same yard also send out the quirky Zainhom, second over course and distance in a Carnival handicap in February, who is well capable of taking this too, if in the right frame of mind.

The imposing Moqtarreb ran some good races at the Carnival last year, and wasn’t disgraced when sixth at Jebel Ali last time out. A return to turf will suit him better, however, and the son of Kingman is another to consider here, while his trainer Al Rayhi also runs Yaalail, only beaten five lengths in the Listed National Day Cup last time, who is likely to go forward under Paiva.

Al Ain hosts a seven race card on Friday, and Insaan takes his chance for Erwan Charpy in the mile handicap for Thoroughbreds. Fourth and third on two starts at Jebel Ali this season, the lightly-raced son of Cape Cross is capable of landing a race of this nature and a flat track here may well help him. His opposition includes the huge Edaraat, who goes off a 5lb lower mark of 63 having been well-held at Jebel Ali on Friday. He will be ridden by Hector Crouch, with O’Neill opting for Insaan.

Saturday’s Meydan card features three races on the turf, including one of the most valuable, the ten furlong Al Tayer Motors Handicap, race five. Tafaakhor is the Shadwell representative here and aims for his first win since November 2019 at Jebel Ali. His last three runs this season have been a little below-par, but perhaps he can bounce back here in the hands of Crowley.

Erwan Charpy is hopeful that a return to the grass will help out Akwaan who the trainer believes “hated it” when finishing last on dirt at Sharjah last time. Twice a winner on this surface when trained in the UK, he still hasn’t shown his best in the UAE but has only run here three times, so has plenty of time on his side.

The ten furlong dirt handicap, race two, is also an interesting event. Al Rayhi’s Karnavaal has snuck in off bottom weight and will be ridden by Paiva, who is able to get down to 53.5kilos. In good heart this season, including when second on turf at Abu Dhabi last time, he tries this distance for the first time and is an interesting contender.

Masaali impressed when winning at Jebel Ali on just his second start, but things will be more difficult at Meydan, with a useful field against him in the finale, a mile dirt handicap. They include Al Mheiri’s Jahaafel, who makes his seasonal debut, having been last seen running down the track here in February. A winner in the UK, he has now dropped to a career low mark of 73 and goes from stall eight under O’Neill.