HH Sheikh Hamdan enjoyed an excellent day at Jebel Ali on Friday, when his runners finished one-two in the first two races on the card. The opening maiden was won by Masaali, making just his second start, from Al Hadeer. Doug Watson trains the winner and said: “He’s always been a nice horse but we’ve had a lot of problems with him, so it was great to see him go and get the win.”
Retained jockey Dane O’Neill was on the second home in the opener but got it right in race two, partnering Almoreb to a smooth victory for trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi; the gelding’s first in the UAE.
This week, Meydan hosts the most exciting card of the season so far, Thursday’s six races including two Listed events. The Garhoud Sprint, race four, looks a fascinating contest and Waady tops the weights, having landed the G2 Meydan Sprint on turf when last seen in February. Second in this race last year behind Ibn Malik, it will be tough under a three kilo penalty but he is still one of the leading contenders. He breaks from stall eight, of nine, and will be ridden by O’Neill.
Ali Al Rayhi has his team in good order and his Enjazaat makes his local debut, having moved from Owen Burrows in the UK. A winner of his last two starts, including at Kempton in October 2019, hewill have to adapt to the dirt but is an interesting recruit to the UAE team. Connor Beasley takes the ride from post six.
There is just one handicap on the card, the Jebel Ali Port-sponsored Mile contest; race three. Tafaakhor is extremely consistent and ran well when third at Jebel Ali three weeks’ ago. Down to a mark of 70 here, he looks to have a good chance of making the frame again, although stall 14 makes things tricky for O’Neill.
The AED5million G1 Jewel Crown for Purebred Arabians is the feature race of the whole weekend. It takes place at Abu Dhabi on Friday and a strong international line-up of 16 includes multiple G1 winner Al Zahir,trained by Al Rayhi. The seven-year-old managed only two starts last season, finishing up with a seventh in the G1 Emirates Championship, but is more than capable on his best form. The race’s new distance of 11 furlongs should also suit him better than the mile it was previously run over.
The best of the supporting races is the G3 National Day Cup for Arabians, race four, and Sauternes Al Maury flies the Shadwell flag here. Fifth at Meydan last time out in the G2 Bani Yas, the Watson trainee is yet to win on turf but has run well at Abu Dhabi in the past.
The Listed National Day Cup for Thoroughbreds is extremely competitive and Sheikh Hamdan turns out six among the field of 16. The highest-rated of them is Fanaar who has run two good races on dirt this season and will relish being back on turf, with conditions looking perfect for him. He will be ridden by Sam Hitchcott from post 11, just outside stablemate Motafaawit, who makes his first trip to Abu Dhabi. Well-held at Jebel Ali when last seen in March, he should be better now in his second season in the Emirates, and Abu Dhabi may well suit him better.
Their rivals include defending champion Taamol, the pick of O’Neill, who was a little disappointing when only ninth here, over course and distance, a month ago. He’s better than he showed then and may be capable of bouncing back. His trainer Al Rayhi also runs Yaalail, who was sixth, ahead of Taamol, last time. He is likely to go from the front under Beasley, unlike Zainhom who usually does his best work late in a race. Trained by Al Mheiri, the chestnut is running for the first time since March, but his Carnival second at Meydan suggests he is well capable if in the mood.
Eqtiraan ran an excellent race when second to the smart Gabr at Jebel Ali three weeks’ ago. Back on his favoured turf surface here, he has been second here before and can’t be discounted, from a good draw in six.
The final meeting of the weekend takes place at Al Ain on Saturday. There is one Thoroughbred race on the card, a mile handicap, and Thaaqib takes his chance here for Erwan Charpy. Now 4lbs lower than his last win at Meydan in February 2019, the grey gelding should be fitter for his outing at Sharjah at the end of October.