There are just two meetings left in this UAE season, starting with Meydan on Thursday which hosts an excellent eight-race card, including six contests on the turf, which means plenty of opportunities for the 23 Shadwell runners.
The Emirates NBD Handicap, race two, over seven furlongs on turf, pits three Shadwell trainees against each other, none of whom has ever won in the UAE.
They include top weight Eshtiraak, who makes a quick return after finishing seventh over a mile at Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Trained by Doug Watson, the six-year-old hasn’t won since his Australian days, in November 2018. However, this is his best trip and he should run a sound race, although jockey Richie Mullen will have to circle the field from stall 16.
Watson also runs Bawaasil, another who ran a good race here two starts ago over a mile on turf, when only beaten a length and a half into fourth. He’s much better on this surface and if things drop right he could finish in the frame here. He is the choice of Sam Hitchcott, who is currently riding as first jockey at Red Stables, and they will break from post 14.
Shajjy invariably runs a good race, as he did last time when second over six furlongs at Jebel Ali. Seventh on his only try over this course and distance, Musabbeh Al Mheiri’s charge is probably more effective over a furlong shorter than this.
The second race is the seven furlong Gulf News handicap, on dirt. It sees the UAE debut of the exciting Mubakker, who moves to Watson from the Sir Michael Stoute yard in the UK. A winner on the all-weather, beating subsequent Group 1 winner Glen Shiel, two starts ago, he is rated 6lbs clear of the field here and should adapt well to this surface, being by Speightstown and out of a More Than Ready mare. He will be ridden by Hitchcott from stall nine.
His eight rivals include the Al Mheiri-trained Alkaamel who was a winner here by 13.5l just over a year ago, over a mile. He hasn’t scored since then, but has run some admirable races in defeat and dropping in trip will do him no harm. He has a good draw in three and will be aided by in-form rider Antonio Fresu.
Moqarrab also lines up for the same yard, having been third here over course and distance four starts ago, but well-beaten when last seen at Jebel Ali. Sandro Paiva rides him from stall seven.
Shadwell have done extremely well with sprinters in recent years and run seven in the six furlong Al Tayer Motors Handicap, race four. Mutaraffa is yet to win in the UAE, but has been second on three of his last four starts, including to Equilateral in Listed company at the Carnival. Consistent, he may be slightly better over five furlongs, but should still run a good race from stall 12, with Fresu on board for Al Mheiri.
The same trainer also saddles Taneen, who was an impressive winner over this trip two starts ago, before finishing fifth in a Group 3. Fragile but very useful, he is one of the ones to beat here under rider Szczepan Mazur, who was also onboard him last time out.
Al Mheiri’s third shot in the race comes with 2020 Jebel Ali Sprint winner Alkaraama, who runs on grass for the first time since he arrived in the UAE in late 2019. A three-time winner from three starts on the all-weather, to add to his dirt success, he is versatile and shouldn’t find the surface switch an issue.
Ali Al Rayhi sends out Yaalail, who was seventh, behind Taneen, at Meydan two runs ago. Fifth since then over seven furlongs at Abu Dhabi, the six-year-old is probably better over a bit further than this, when he is able to gain an easier lead.
He is joined in the race by stablemate Ayaad, a local debutant having moved from Jean-Claude Rouget in France. By Kingman, he is out of a Daaher mare and is a winner of two of his six starts to date, but this will be his first run since September. Apprentice Abdul Aziz Al Balushi takes the ride, with stable jockey Sandro Paiva having chosen Yaalail.
Al Rayhi also runs Etisalat, who was a winner over five furlongs here in January but has run well over this trip too, including when fifth to Taneen. A good second on dirt at Al Ain last time, he is another to consider in an extremely strong contest.
Watson, who is chasing a seventh UAE Championship, saddles Fanaar, whose best run this season came when second in the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint. A Listed winner in the UK, he is capable of landing a blow over what is probably his best distance.
The feature, race six, is the Emirates-sponsored Zabeel Trophy Rated Conditions race, over a mile on turf. Moqtarreb has kept good company over the past few months and was ninth, only beaten four lengths, in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta last time out. His only win, however, came over this trip at Newmarket and he is capable of taking advantage of this drop in grade. Apprentice Al Balushi takes a handy kilo and a half off his back.
Moqtarreb’s stablemate Hakeem arrives here off the back of a win, and has been raised 4lbs for his success over seven furlongs at Abu Dhabi a month ago. He’s a big horse who has gradually improved throughout the season and he should go well again, while Erwan Charpy’s Mukalal has six lengths to find on him from that Abu Dhabi run. A winner in the Capital in November 2019, he has only run three times since and arrives here fresher than many at this stage of the season.
Grey Alfareeq ran an excellent race when second at Jebel Ali last time, and he will be better back on turf. A relative newcomer to the UAE, he is still getting the hang of racing here but is capable of surprising a few with the step back up in trip likely to suit. He goes from a good draw in seven under Antonio Fresu, with Arie de Vries on Gabr.
A winner at Jebel Ali back in November, Gabr is nevertheless probably best on turf, so this is a good opportunity for him to build on an excellent second here two starts ago. That was over nine furlongs but a mile is no issue and he warrants respect from lower down the handicap.
Watson’s War Front gelding Al Qaqaa has conditions to suit in the mile and a half turf handicap, race six. The four-year-old again ran well over a trip which was probably too short for him at Abu Dhabi on Sunday, finishing third. It’s a quick return, but he looks an exciting addition to UAE racing and has a winning chance here under Hitchcott.
The final race is the ten furlong Azizi Developments turf handicap which gives Mudaarab another chance to regain the winning thread. Absent during the early part of the season, the Charpy-trained seven-year-old ran well when fifth, beaten five lengths, in the Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship two weeks ago and this race should suit him well.
He does have to concede weight all round, however, including to Tafaakhor who ran a typically game race when second to Zaman at Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Third over this course and distance four starts ago, he should again run well if this doesn’t come too soon.
By contrast, stablemate Nashraawy arrives as a fresh horse, having only had two local starts, both of them this year. Well-held on dirt, he reverts to turf, the surface on which he was a winner at Salisbury in the UK over this distance.
Dalaalaat is well-regarded by the Musabbeh Al Mheiri team, and he will be happier back on turf, having made his last three starts on dirt. Off since December, this nevertheless may be a tough ask following a break and stall 14 will also make jockey Mazur’s job a little harder.
There is a ten furlong Thoroughbred handicap at Al Ain’s closing meeting on Friday, and Shadwell send out Maqaadeer, who ran a typically honest race when fourth at Jebel Ali two weeks’ ago.
Better on a flat track, this trip suits him ideally and he is one of the ones to beat again here, on just his second run in Al Ain. He has a good draw in four and will be ridden by Hitchcott.