There are three meetings in the UAE this weekend, starting at Jebel Ali which hosts a seven-race card on Friday.
HH Sheikh Hamdan runs seven on Friday, starting off in the third race, a mile handicap, where Maqaadeer carries the blue and white silks. Doug Watson’s charge will need to break better than he did two weeks ago and blinkers are applied this time. He’s better than he showed then, however, and is fast coming down the handicap so should be competitive soon.
Shadwell sponsors the feature race, race four, a mile Conditions event. Gabr and Eqtiraan are two of the classier horses on the card and they clash here, with Dane O’Neill electing to ride Eqtiraan. His best form is on turf, but he has run well here before and should appreciate this return to a mile. He and Gabr both receive weight off many of the principals here, which will help the latter, a son of Intello, as he tackles dirt for the first time. Trained by Watson, he has been off the track since a good run at the Carnival in January.
Eqtiraan’s trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi also runs Mashaheer here, the five-year-old returning to action after nearly a year on the sidelines. Ridden by Connor Beasley, he has a visor on for the first time and breaks from stall five.
The mile older horse maiden, race six, sees Al Hadeer venture to Jebel Ali for the second time, for Al Rayhi. The four-year-old’s best run in the UAE came on turf at Abu Dhabi in January but he should improve for having had longer in the Emirates and isn’t ruled out in an open race. Beasley rides from a tricky draw in 12.
In the same race, Insaan lines up for Erwan Charpy and is the chosen mount of O’Neill. The Cape Cross gelding is having just his second local start, having been well-held here in March. Raced sparingly, only twice, when in the care of Dermot Weld in Ireland, the four-year-old still hasn’t really shown what he is capable of so far and is interesting here.
Tafaakhor is a highly-reliable type and he goes in the longest race of the day, the closing handicap over nine and a half furlongs. Third last week in a very good race at Meydan, he is now a pound lower than when winning on here over nine furlongs a year ago. He has a very good chance of winning this, from a handy draw in one.
Abu Dhabi stages its usual six-race turf card on Sunday and there are three maidens for Purebred Arabians. In the second of them, for UAE-breds over seven furlongs, Shadwell run the three-year-old colt AF Muqna’a, who made a promising start to his career when third at Sharjah two weeks ago. Trained by Al Rayhi, he should go close, although Beasley will have to negotiate a passage from stall 12 of 13.
As usual, Sheikh Hamdan is well-stocked in the Thoroughbred race, a mile conditions event carded as race six. Taamol, whose brilliant season last year included wins here in the Listed National Day and President’s Cups, looks the one to catch again. Well-beaten in the G3 Burj Nahaar on dirt when last seen on Super Saturday, he loves Abu Dhabi and is high on the shortlist in a strong race.
His opposition includes stablemate Yaalail, who was eighth in this race last year. Dropped to sprinting since, he put in some excellent efforts in defeat at the Carnival and should be a force again if the return to a mile doesn’t now stretch him. He will be ridden by Sandro Paiva from stall two.