It is a busy weekend ahead with four meetings in the UAE, starting off with six races at Meydan on Thursday — the fourth week of the Dubai World Cup Carnival.
The Shadwell team start off in the Emirates SkyCargo Handicap, race two, which is over a mile and half and Mudarrab lines up here for Erwan Charpy. The seven-year-old has been off the track for a year, since winning at Abu Dhabi in February, when he won well over 11 furlongs. Now 4lbs higher, he may need this run to regain full fitness and has a tricky draw in 15.
The concluding five-furlong Emirates Skywards Handicap only has a field of ten, but is still very competitive, with His Highness Sheikh Hamdan fielding four. Mutaraffa ran a great race over course and distance last time, finishing half a length second to Equilateral and he has solid claims of landing a first local success here. He will be ridden by Dane O’Neill, with Jim Crowley electing to partner Fanaar, who was an excellent second in the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint last Friday. That was by far his best local run, and the five-year-old should again go well, having finished sixth (behind Mutaraffa) over this course and distance two starts ago.
Fanaar’s trainer Doug Watson also saddles Moraawed, who runs in the UAE for just the second time, having had an acclimatisation outing at Jebel Ali last March. The son of Swiss Spirit was a winner over seven furlongs when trained in the UK by Roger Varian, so may find this a little on the sharp side.
Watson also runs Motafaawit, who tries this trip for the first time, having finished down the field over seven furlongs on his latest outing in the Listed National Day Cup at Abu Dhabi in December. Now down to a mark of 93, this new distance could open up different options in the future. He is drawn in 10, which might be an advantage on the straight track at the moment.
Meydan also hosts a six race domestic card on Saturday and Sheikh Hamdan is well-represented.
The official feature is a nine-furlong turf handicap, race four, in which Moqtarreb lines up for Al Rayhi. Ninth, but only beaten a length and a quarter, over a mile last time out, the Kingman gelding tries this distance for just the second time and should again give a good account. He will be ridden by O’Neill, with Crowley on Al Salt for Charpy. The four-year-old recorded an excellent local debut when second over a mile two weeks ago and should be fine covering this extra distance, although a wide draw in 15 makes it a little harder.
Just to his inside, in stall 14, is Hakeem, who lines up for Al Rayhi, aiming to build on his mile win here from February. This is his first run back on this turf course since and he cannot be dismissed.
Gabr also takes his chance here, returning to turf after finishing seventh in the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile last time out. A smart sort, he won well at Jebel Ali on seasonal debut and has the ability to land a race of this standard. Szczepan Mazur takes the reins this time, and he will break from post two.
The mile dirt handicap, race three, looks very open and features Karnavaal, who makes his sixth start of the season. Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, the Dubawi gelding helped set the pace and possibly didn’t see out 11 furlongs last time so this drop down in trip should really suit him. He is drawn in ten and will be ridden by Crowley.
His opponents include Al Mheiri’s Jahaafel, who was only beaten a length and three-quarters into sixth over course and distance last time out. That was his best run since moving to the Emirates and a similar effort should see him go close again under O’Neill.
Race five, the Longines Spirit Collection Handicap, is over six furlongs on dirt and Moqarrab lines up here for Al Mheiri. Sixth last time over this track and trip, he is capable of winning at this level although is probably seen to best effect when closing off a fast pace.
The six-furlong turf handicap, race six, is one of the most exciting races of the night and Alfolk tops the weights. The ex-South African runner is getting closer to a first UAE win, having finished second over five furlongs here two weeks ago. That was over five furlongs, his best trip, but he should still be competitive here under jockey Sam Hitchcott.
Taneen was two spots behind Alfolk, in fourth, last time but Al Mheiri’s gelding was staying on, suggesting that a return to this distance will suit. He is now down to a mark of 85, 9lbs below his last win, and is capable of landing another race soon.
Taneen will be ridden by O’Neill, with Crowley having opted for Etisalat, who was successful over five furlongs two starts ago, before finishing sixth, behind Alfolk and Taneen, last time out. The grey finished the race well on both occasions, and the extra furlong holds no fears here.
Etisalat’s trainer Al Rayhi also runs Tashaaboh, who was third on his only run over this course and distance, on his UAE debut in 2019. He has been a rare runner since, but is now down to a mark of 83, 2lbs lower than his last win which came in 2018 when trained in the UK. He will be partnered by Pat Cosgrave, with Clement Lecoeuvre on Tadbir for Charpy. The six-year-old was second over this track and trip a year ago and a reproduction of that effort could see him hit the frame again, with the visor off this time.