Strong Shadwell line up set for Jebel Ali on Friday

Laura King looks ahead to a competitive weekend of action in the UAE
Al Zahir: ran a huge race to finish second in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

He might not have had a winner, but HH Sheikh Hamdan’s horses collected their biggest cheque of the season so far when Al Zahir finished second in the G1 Jewel Crown in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, winning AED1million. Ali Rashid Al Rayhi’s entire only ran twice last season, so this was an excellent effort and it should put him spot on for a tilt at the Group 1 President’s Cup, which he has won twice before.

There are seven races at Jebel Ali on Friday, including six for Thoroughbreds, and the Shadwell team send out 11 runners. The seven furlong handicap, race two, looks interesting and Moqtarreb is the highest-rated of the five-strong Shadwell contingent, off a mark of 94. Second on his dirt and racecourse debut six weeks ago, he should improve for that experience on the surface and can go well again under Dane O’Neill. His rivals include the quirky Zainhom, who drops in grade and makes a quick return to action after finishing tenth, beaten just over seven lengths, the in Listed National Day Cup at Abu Dhabi on Sunday. A winner here over a mile last season, he is now back on that mark of 82 and is more than capable of landing another prize if in the mood.

Zainhom’s trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri also sends out Dalaalaat, who he holds in high regard. Like Moqtarreb he is by Kingman, and ran a decent race from a wide draw when tenth at Sharjah last time out. The four-year-old has also run well twice over this course and distance and this race looks within his compass. He is drawn in one and will be ridden by Al Mheiri’s stable jockey Antonio Fresu.

Erwan Charpy is still looking for his first winner of the season, but his Tadbir might not be far away here. Never really involved at Sharjah last time, he has been dropped three pounds and is now seven below his last win, which came over this track and trip in November 2019. He has a tough draw in 12 and will be partnered by Charpy’s stable jockey Clement Lecoeuvre.

The grey Etisalat completes the Shadwell team in this race and will aim for his first win since April 2019. Off since March, Al Rayhi’s gelding runs over his best trip here and has gone well fresh in the past. He will be partnered by in-form jockey Connor Beasley and the pair will break from stall nine.

The third race is a six furlong maiden sponsored by Emirates NBD. It features Al Hadeer, who has finished second on both his starts this season and has a good chance of making it third time lucky here. A horse with plenty of pace, the four-year-old War Front gelding was only two and a quarter lengths behind the classy Masaali last time and this drop in trip should suit him. He will be hard to beat under O’Neill.

The nine and a half furlong conditions race, race four, is a trappy affair for horses who have not yet won two races. Al Rayhi sends out Karnavaal, while Maqaadeer represents Doug Watson. The former, the pick of O’Neill, is making his fourth UAE start and second at Jebel Ali. A good fourth at Sharjah last time, that effort suggested he is capable of more and he has to be a leading contender here, from a good draw in one. Maqaadeer, meanwhile, finished a good third over a mile here last time out, enough to suggest that he may be capable of winning soon off a career-low mark of 63. He races without blinkers this time and is drawn in stall two.

The nine furlong handicap, race five, sees Tafaahkor make his fourth start of the campaign. Now on a low handicap mark of 69, the Dark Angel gelding was dropped a pound for his ninth place at Meydan last week, although a wide draw made things tough for him there. In good form prior to that, he is now three pounds lower than when a winner over this course and distance in November 2019, his most recent success. The draw hasn’t been kind to him again, however, and he and O’Neill will start from stall 12 of 15.

The second maiden, for older horses over a mile, sees Insaan take his chance for Erwan Charpy. This will be just the four-year-old’s third start in the Emirates, but he made good progress when fourth over course and distance a month ago and this looks an easier race. He faces just seven rivals and is likely to give a good account.

The five furlong handicap, race seven, sees South African Group 3 winner Alfolk return to his best trip and the Doug Watson trainee has run well over this track and trip in the past, notably when only beaten six lengths in the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint. Now off a career-low mark of 68, he cannot be dismissed in an open contest, having shaped well when eighth, just getting tired late, on his seasonal reappearance at Meydan.

Abu Dhabi stages a good card on Sunday and Jaaref lines up in the only Thoroughbred race, an 11 furlong handicap. Better on this turf surface, he nevertheless ran extremely well when fifth, beaten four lengths, on dirt at Meydan three weeks ago.  He has a good chance here, at a track and trip he won over in February 2017, when rated a pound higher than he is now. The Sea The Stars gelding has a good draw in one from which to use his forward-going style and will be ridden by O’Neill.