The Shadwell team are off the mark at Meydan for the season, thanks to Mayaadeen who landed a second seven furlong success at the track on Thursday. Ridden by Dane O’Neill for trainer Doug Watson, the five-year-old travelled well and held on for a half-length success.
“He’s a bonny little horse with a great attitude,” said the jockey, who was opening his account for the season. “He was dropping in grade, and had the benefit of a run, and everything dropped into place.”
O’Neill has a strong book of rides at Jebel Ali on Friday, when the popular track hosts its third meeting of the season. Sheikh Hamdan’s second retained rider has opted for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi’s Al Hadeer in the opening seven furlong maiden. The four-year-old almost ran away with a similar contest two weeks ago and has a better draw this time in five. Ridden by Connor Beasley on that occasion, the War Front gelding was reeled in late to finish second but clearly handled conditions and will be hard to peg back here.
His five rivals include the Doug Watson-trained Masaali, who shaped very nicely, staying on after missing the break, when third on debut here last month. The four-year-old Hard Spun gelding has also drawn well, in three, and will be ridden by Pat Dobbs.
A field of eight has been declared for the Al Reda Insurance seven furlong handicap, race two, which is restricted to those who haven’t won since April 2018, and Shajjy is the highest-rated of the Shadwell trio. Trained by the in-form Musabbeh Al Mheiri, the six-year-old hasn’t won since June 2017 but has gone close a few times, notably when second at Meydan two starts ago. Off a four pound lower dirt mark here, he could surprise a few.
His rivals include Al Rayhi’s Almoreb, the pick of O’Neill, who put in a solid effort when fourth at Meydan last time in a stronger race than this. Placed on all three runs here, he shouldn’t be far away at the finish and has drawn well in post three.
The third runner for the team in this race is Watson’s Fawaareq, who is yet to win here in the UAE. As a result, he is now well handicapped off a mark of just 73 on dirt. The seven-year-old’s best local run did come here, when he was fifth over course and distance a year ago, and a return to these conditions should suit.
Sharjah hosts one of its biggest races of the year on Saturday, when the AED200,000 Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup, over an extended mile, takes centre stage.
In-form Al Mheiri has a good chance of lifting this with course debutant Dalaalaat, who is now in his second season in the Emirates. Highly-regarded by his trainer, the son of Kingman was a good second over 10 furlongs at Meydan when last seen in March and it will be interesting to see how he goes here, with improvement likely after a summer to acclimatize. He is the choice of O’Neill, who will have to negotiate a route from a wide draw in 12.
Tadbir also takes his chance, for Erwan Charpy, and is another trying Sharjah for the first time. A winner at Jebel Ali last November, he has struggled since but is now rated four pounds lower than when recording that success. Charpy also runs Akwaan, who has had just two local starts, running down the field at Jebel Ali and Meydan. Now a UAE resident for a year, this season he should start to show his full capabilities and he has a nice light weight here, which will help.
Akwaan carries half a kilo more than Karnavaal, who makes just his third local start here. Well-held in two runs at the start of the year, the four-year-old Dubawi gelding has time on his side and is visored for the first time. He will be ridden by Connor Beasley from stall five.
Sheikh Hamdan runs one Arabian on the card in the form of AF Muqna’a, one of the most experienced runners in the opening maiden. A good third here on debut, he couldn’t build on that on turf at Abu Dhabi but is capable of bouncing back now returned to dirt here.