Shadwell off the mark in UAE with more to come

Laura King casts her expert eye over proceedings in the Emirates
Fanaar: he went into a number of notebooks following his comeback run at Jebel Ali

The Shadwell team are off the mark for the season in the UAE, thanks to the classy Gabr, who made his first dirt start a winning one at Jebel Ali last Friday.

Ridden by Sam Hitchcott, the former Goodwood Listed winner lead home a one-two for HH Sheikh Hamdan, with Eqtiraan filling second place. Winning trainer Doug Watson was delighted with the result, which opens up plenty of options for the recently gelded son of Intello.

“He has always shown a lot at home, but not so much in his races for us,” said the trainer, for whom Gabr was making his fifth start. “It looks like we have a nice horse for here [Jebel Ali] for the rest of the season. He stays 2000metres so I was happy 1600m here would suit him.”

There are just two meetings this weekend in the Emirates, and the Shadwell team are well-represented in the first of them, running seven on the seven-race card at Meydan on Thursday.

Watson saddles a pair of old favourites, Sauternes Al Maury and Bon Baiser du Faust, in the opening race, the G2 Bani Yas for Purebred Arabians. The former, who is now eight years old, has been off for almost a year, before which he was sixth in this contest after missing the break. Twice a winner in lower grades at Al Ain, this looks a tough task from stall 11, although he is the pick of Dane O’Neill.

That gives in-form Hitchcott the mount on Sauternes Al Maury’s stablemate, Bon Baiser Du Faust, who has also been off for 11 months. The nine-year-old was behind his colleague in this race last season and is yet to build on his Madjani Stakes win of 2016.

The Thoroughbred feature, race five, is a mile Rated Conditions event. It features one of the most exciting runners on the card in Alkaamel, who was a 13.5length winner over course and distance when last seen in March. Given an 11lb rise for that stunning performance, the four-year-old is in a better grade of race here but the fast track will suit him. He’s the mount of O’Neill and they will break from stall seven.

Alkaamel’s rivals include Fanaar, who went into plenty of notebooks with a good third at Jebel Ali three weeks ago. Trying Meydan’s dirt for the first time, he has shown enough to suggest he will act on it and is very interesting up in trip here. He is the mount of Pat Dobbs, who returns from injury, and has drawn six.

The third Shadwell runner in the race is Hakeem, who has run extremely well in three out of four local starts. A winner here on turf in February, he was then sixth in Group 3 company at Abu Dhabi and looks sure to run a good race here, on his first try over this course and distance.

The seven furlong handicap, race four, is one of the most competitive on the card and Watson’s Mayaadeen will carry the blue and white. Given four pounds back by the handicapper after a solid effort when fifth over course and distance two weeks ago, he is now a pound lower than when winning here in January and should give another good account, from a good draw in two.

11 line up in the finale, a ten furlong handicap, which sees Jaaref represent Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. The likeable Sea The Stars gelding is rated 19lbs lower on dirt than on turf and will try to go from the front here on his first Meydan start for two years. He is now 13lbs lower than when second over course and distance in November 2017, however, and also goes well fresh, so he’s not discounted here, although stall 10 is not ideal.

Raafid has started the season in good form, with a second at Jebel Ali, and he has bottom weight in the six furlong handicap. A winner here on turf in 2019, he is probably less effective on this surface but a feather weight of 53,5kgs surely gives him a chance.