Excitement builds with Carnival taking centre stage

Laura King looks ahead to a high-class week of action in the Emirates
EQTIRAAN: lines up in the Group 2 at Meydan on Thursday following an emphatic success earlier this month

This week sees the quality rise dramatically in the Emirates, as the Dubai World Cup Carnival gets underway at Meydan on Thursday and the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile takes centre stage on Friday.

Let’s start at headquarters, where HH Sheikh Hamdan runs eight. They include Eqtiraan who lines up in the Group 2 Singspiel Stakes over nine furlongs on turf. A winner under an excellent Connor Beasley ride over course and distance last time, this will be altogether tougher, although he remains unexposed in the UAE and deserves to take his chance. He will break from post one under Dane O’Neill, who has first pick of the rides this week, with Jim Crowley having remained in the UK.

Ali Rashid Al Rayhi also saddles Enjaazat in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, race six, over seven furlongs on turf. Not bred for dirt, he nevertheless ran well on it when sixth in December and that should have brought him on, fitness-wise, for this test. He faces a classy field, including five Godolphin runners, but conditions should really suit him and he has drawn well in one.

The Group 3 Dubawi Stakes, race three, sees the return of Listed Jebel Ali Sprint winner Alkaraama, who followed that effort with a good fourth, from a wide draw, in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal over Thursday’s course and distance. Off since, this is a tough ask on seasonal debut but he remains an exciting horse and has drawn well in four.

There are few more consistent than Waady, and he returns to the race in which he was fourth last year. Fourth in the Listed Garhoud Sprint when last seen in December, he is sure to run an honest race again and also has options on turf elsewhere during the Carnival. Pat Dobbs rides him on this occasion, from gate two.

The Shadwell team do very well in turf sprints here in Dubai and they run four in the closing Listed Dubai Dash, over five furlongs. They include Doug Watson’s smart Ekhtiyaar, a winner over six furlongs here a year ago. He has plenty of speed for this sharper test, provided he is fit enough on this first start since March. He is the choice of O’Neill, who would not have been able to do the weight of 53.5kilos on Fanaar, who is yet to show his best in six local starts. 11th in the Listed National Day Cup at Abu Dhabi last time out, he is running over this distance for just the second time.

Eshaasy, well-beaten over this track and trip two weeks’ ago, also takes his chance and can do better if now drawn nearer to the speed. He is a new recruit for the Al Rayhi team and has only run twice locally, so is open to improvement in the hands of Sandro Paiva.

The final Shadwell runner in this race is Mutaraffa, who is a three time winner on turf and runs on that surface for just the second time here in the UAE. A good second, on seasonal debut, at Jebel Ali last time out, he is well-regarded by trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri and could upset a few here, with apprentice Hugo Lebouc taking 3kilos off, meaning he will carry just 50kgs. 

Jebel Ali hosts its most valuable race of the year on Friday, with AED575,000 up for grabs in the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile, race four. Gabr was a classy winner over course and distance – beating subsequent Meydan winner Eqtiraan – in November and he heads the Shadwell team. A classy sort when in the UK, he has strong claims of landing this now that he has a confidence-boosting first win on dirt under his belt.

Alkaamel also takes his chance, switching to Jebel Ali after three good runs at Meydan this season which include behind the re-opposing Hypothetical two weeks ago. This is just his second start at Jebel Ali and he warrants respect having been sixth there over 1200metres on his previous try.

The opening race is a seven furlong handicap, which has four Shadwell runners, including Al Mheiri’s Haafel, who has had just two starts since moving from France. A son of Speightstown, he was well-beaten on turf at Abu Dhabi last time but is bred to be better on this surface and could be interesting here under Antonio Fresu.

Al Mheiri also runs the quirky Shajjy, the pick of O’Neill, whose fourth over six furlongs two starts ago was a good effort. If he is able to reproduce that than he should go close, although he is yet to win in the UAE.

Doug Watson runs two, including Fawaareq. The eight-year-old is unlucky not to have won this season, including finishing a neck back in third last time, and should have leading claims again with a low weight of 55kilos to carry. His opponents include the Australian-bred Eshtiraak, who is nearing a win and overcame a slow start to finish third, over a mile, behind stablemate Habah here on his latest run. A winner over a mile and sprint trips when in Australia, this seven furlongs should hold no fears and he cannot be ruled out under Dobbs.

Race two is a four-year-old Conditions event in which Erwan Charpy gives a second local start to Alkhat. Well-beaten after chasing the pace at Abu Dhabi last time, this will be his first try on dirt. 

The mile handicap, race five, looks open and Masaali is one of the least experienced in it, having won on his second start here in November. That was over seven furlongs, but the extra 200 metres shouldn’t be a problem and he could have more to offer off his current mark of 70.

The ten and a half furlong handicap, race six, also looks tricky and Maqaadeer lines up here for Watson. Third over this course and distance when last seen in December, he was held up and ran on well that day and should be thereabouts again. He will break from post three under O’Neill.

The five furlong handicap will serve as an early prep race for the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint in March, and Sheikh Hamdan runs two, including Taneen who ran a good fourth on turf at Meydan last time. A winner over this course and distance back in 2018, he is fragile, but smart, and should go well again. Raafid, second here over six furlongs in October, completes the Shadwell team and aims to replicate his track and trip success from March 2019, now that he has dropped back to that winning mark of 76.

Al Ain hosts a seven race card on Saturday, and the feature is an AED85,000 Arabian Conditions race over a mile and a quarter. Sauternes Al Maury has struggled for a win in recent years but now returns to the scene of his two previous successes, having scored here twice in 2016. The Doug Watson trainee has been keeping good company of late and this is a huge drop in class.

The blue and white silks will also be in action in race two, a mile handicap, when AF Muqna’a has his fourth career start and first since November. Fourth at Sharjah last time out, he steps up to a mile here in the hands of Royston Ffrench, and wears blinkers for the first time.

Abu Dhabi hosts an excellent card on Sunday, in which the feature is the G3 Al Ruwais, worth AED300,000. Sheikh Hamdan doesn’t have a runner in that but does send out Insaan in the seven furlong Thoroughbred maiden, the finale. Erwan Charpy’s five-year-old was a little disappointing when eighth at Al Ain last week, but should like being back on turf here; his first chance on the surface since his switch from the UK. He faces a full field of 16 and will be partnered by O’Neill.