The UAE stages a busy weekend of racing to close out 2020, with four meetings with excellent prize-money taking place at Meydan, Jebel Ali, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
We’ll start at Meydan, where the Listed Dubai Creek Mile for Thoroughbreds, race five, is the highlight on a seven race card. HH Sheikh Hamdan sends out Akaamel who began his season with a battling third in Rated Conditions company a month ago. That run showed his 13length victory of last season was no fluke and he deserves his chance in this grade, although it will be tough with proven Group performers in the line-up and he has drawn eight of nine.
The card’s Arabian race is the nine and a half furlong Madjani Stakes, race one, which is named after Shadwell’s three-time Kahayla Classic winner. Upgraded to a Group 2, it has attracted a strong line-up, including Sauternes Al Maury, who is running in the race for a fifth time, having been a nose second back in 2016. Eighth in the Group 3 National Cup at Abu Dhabi three weeks’ ago, he will be happier back on dirt here but has the worst of the draw in 16.
The seven furlong handicap, race seven, sees Moqarrab top the weights for Musabbeh Al Mheiri. A solid fourth when last seen at Jebel Ali in March, the Speightstown gelding goes well fresh and should have conditions to suit here. His rivals include Mayaadeen, who will try to follow up his course and distance win of a month ago off a five pound higher mark. Something of a specialist at this trip, he should run well again from a good draw in six and he is the choice of O’Neill.
Also in the field is the grey Etisalat, who makes a quick return having finished seventh at Jebel Ali last week. He is partnered by Sam Hitchcott from stall ten.
Jebel Ali hosts six races this week, including a 55-75 six furlong handicap, race two, for horses who haven’t won since April 2019. Sheikh Hamdan is well represented with three runners, the highest rated of whom is Fawaareq who was only narrowly beaten when second here over seven furlongs three weeks’ ago. Reportedly working well this season, he has a good chance here and is the pick of O’Neill. He faces 12 including Kawasir, whois yet to build on his 2018 Meydan maiden win and tries Jebel Ali for a second time. Off since November 2019, he does go well fresh and resumes his career off a five pound lower mark of 72.
The Shadwell trio is completed by the Erwan Charpy-trained Farook, who ran down the field at Abu Dhabi when last seen six weeks’ ago. He will appreciate reverting to the straight track here, where he won three race back in 2017/8.
The second six furlong handicap, race three, sees three carry the blue and white, all of whom are trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri. They include the exciting Mutaraffa, who finished a good third at Meydan when last seen in February. Trying Jebel Ali for the first time, the son of Acclamation is out of a Shamardal mare and should handle this surface, although he will perhaps need to break faster than he did at Meydan. He has a good draw in two and O’Neill has elected to ride him over Taneen, who has only run three times since winning here by more than three lengths over five furlongs on March 2018. However, he showed signs of being as good as ever when third on turf in February and his best form would see him right in the mix here.
Shajjy has the benefit of fitness over some of these rivals and drops in trip after finishing fifth over seven furlongs here three weeks ago. French jockey Clement Lecoeuvre takes the ride from stall eight.
The feature race, race four, is a six furlong Conditions event for three-year-olds in which Eshaasy makes his local debut. Now with Ali Al Rayhi having moved from John Gosden in the UK, the Oasis Dream gelding was a winner as recently as July when taking a handicap at Sandown. A classy addition to the UAE ranks, he will try dirt for the first time here and has blinkers on.
The finale is an open-looking mile handicap who should suit Almushref who is now three pounds lower than when beaten seven lengths here in March 2019, his latest appearance. Second here twice prior to that, a repeat of his best form would see him go close but the layoff is a concern. His seven rivals include Doug Watson’s ex-Australian Eshtiraak, who has largely struggled in his dirt races so far. Drawn in stall eight, this is just his third run at Jebel Ali and he has been dropped four pounds by the handicapper after finishing fifth at Meydan on his latest outing in March.
Sharjah hosts the valuable HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup on Saturday and a strong field includes Edaraat for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. Eased on his last start at Abu Dhabi, he is better than he was able to show there and tries dirt for the second time here, having been dropped seven pounds by the handicapper. He just sneaks in off bottom weight and will be ridden by Sandro Paiva.
Abu Dhabi stages two Thoroughbred races on its seven race card on Sunday and Karnavaal takes his chance in the first of them, a mile handicap. A likely non-stayer when fifth at Jebel Ali over nine and a half furlongs last week, this trip suits him better and he heads to Abu Dhabi in search of a first win on turf, his UK success having come on an all-weather track at Chelmsford. Paiva rides from stall nine of ten.
Three go for the team in the closing seven furlonog handicap, in which O’Neill partners Tashaaboh for Al Rayhi. Third on turf on his latest outing at Meydan in April 2019, the Lethal Force gelding should have conditions to suit him on this return to action and Shadwell’s retained jockey has picked him over Alfolk who is turned out quickly by Doug Watson. The ex-South African gelding ran well when fifth at Jebel Ali last which but is much better on turf and this looks a good race for him, if the seven furlongs isn’t a little too far. Pat Dobbs rides from stall three.
The team’s trio in this race is completed by Haafel,who makes his seasonal debut. The Speightstown gelding has just had one local run, when down the field at Meydan, and should improve for the extra time here in the Emirates. Antonio Fresu rides him from stall seven and he looks an interesting prospect for the future.