Meydan hosts a six-race, all dirt, domestic meeting on Thursday; the first of three fixtures this weekend in the UAE.
The mile handicap, race four, sees two line up for the Shadwell team. Musabbeh Al Mheiri’s Alkaamel steps up in trip, having last run over six furlongs at Jebel Ali. Twice a winner over a mile when trained in the UK, the Havana Gold gelding may be more at home with this test. He has drawn well in one and will be ridden by in-form Antonio Fresu, with neither Jim Crowley or Dane O’Neill able to do 54kgs.
Eshtiraak also lines up, for Doug Watson and Sam Hitchcott. A useful performer when trained in Australia, he is yet to really prove his liking for dirt and resumes here off a 3lb lower mark, from a tricky draw in 11.
The seven furlong handicap, race six, is very competitive. Haafel is a new addition to trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri, and makes his local debut in the seven furlong handicap. Being by Speightstown out of a Tapit mare, adapting to the surface should be no problem and he is an exciting acquisition, having won one of five starts for Francois Rohaut in France.
Sheikh Hamdan runs three others in the same race, with the reliable Etisalat the choice of Crowley. The grey ran an excellent race when fourth here on turf two weeks ago and is just as capable on dirt over what is his optimum distance. His trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi also saddles Raafid, who steps up to seven furlongs, a trip which just stretches him. He will be ridden by Sam Hitchcott, with O’Neill on Mayadeen, a course and distance winner three starts ago. Just four pounds higher now, he can have an impact again, having had excuses when caught wide on his only subsequent Meydan start.
The ten furlong handicap, race six, is very competitive and sees Dalaalaat try Meydan’s main track for the first time. The son of Kingman ran well at Jebel Ali on his first start there but might find things tougher, under top weight, on this more traditional dirt surface.
Al Ain stages seven races on Friday and Erwan Charpy sends out Ainhoa Topchef in the five furlong handicap, race three. Second last time over this course and distance, he has strong claims again, from a good draw in three, under Fabrice Veron.
Abu Dhabi hosts its final Arabian Group 1 of the season on Saturday, when the eleven furlong Abu Dhabi Championship takes place. Al Zahir won this race in 2018, was fourth in 2019, and takes his chance again for Al Rayhi. The chestnut entire missed the early part of the season but returned with an excellent second in the Group 1 President’s Cup over this course and distance a month ago. If able to build on that effort then he is one of those to beat here.
The weekend’s big Thoroughbred race is the Group 3 Emirates Championship, over the same eleven furlong trip. Sheikh Hamdan runs five, including Al Rayhi’s course winner Jaaref, who will make his customary bold bid from the front. Ninth last time at Meydan, he may find a few too good here.
Al Rayhi also saddles Hakeem, who was the narrow winner over the re-opposing Almoreb at Meydan last time. The six-year-old needed every inch of the mile to get in front on that occasion, so the extra distance might suit him here. He will be ridden by Crowley, with O’Neill on Almoreb, who tries Abu Dhabi for the first time. On pedigree, this trip should suit him better than Hakeem and he is drawn well in six.
Muzdawaj has plenty of talent, but has had a truncated campaign, running just once this season when well-held in a Carnival turf handicap. He is the mount of Fresu with Veron on Zamaam. Charpy’s charge hasn’t won since landing this race in 2017, but the evergreen ten-year-old has been in fine form this season, including placing third in a competitive Carnival handicap. Likely to get the strong pace he thrives on, he is no forlorn hope here.