After a successful 2019-20 season with 26 winners; HH Sheikh Hamdan’s UAE campaign kicks off on Friday, with eight runners at the Shadwell-backed meeting at Jebel Ali. With retained riders Jim Crowley and Dane O’Neill still on duty in the UK, several riders will have the chance to don the famous blue and white silks this weekend.
One of the most intriguing runners comes in the second race, a seven furlong maiden, when Masaali lines up for Doug Watson. The four-year-old homebred son of Hard Spun is unraced and is fascinating to see how he fares on this belated debut against nine rivals. He is the choice of Watson’s stable jockey Pat Dobbs and breaks from post five.
Watson and Dobbs also have a good chance in the most interesting race on the card; the seven furlong handicap; race three. He saddles Fanaar, who showed signs of returning to his smart UK form when fourth here on his latest outing in March. Down slightly in grade this time; he has reportedly been working well and should give a good account.
Shadwell are represented in the same race by Alkaamel, one of the most intriguing runners on the whole card. A devastating 13.5 length winner on his most recent outing, at Meydan, the son of Havana Gold represents Musabbeh Al Mheiri and tries Jebel Ali for a second time, having been sixth on his course debut in February.
Connor Beasley is the new stable jockey for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi this season and the pair could strike in race four, the official feature, which is a four-year-old Conditions event. They combine with Moqtarreb, who is rated 13lbs clear of his nearest rival. However, he is yet to run on dirt and, being a son of Kingman, isn’t sure to adapt. If he does, however, he will be hard to beat having been a narrow second at the Carnival two starts ago, which is by far the best form on offer.
Moqtarreb’s five rivals include Haafel, who has his second start for Mheiri. A son of Speightstown, whose progeny the trainer does well with, he was a winner in France before arriving in the UAE and is an exciting prospect at this stage.
Two go for the team in race four, a six furlong maiden, with Mutaraffa looking the more likely winner. Third, when missing the break, at Meydan last time, he is yet to try Jebel Ali but is a horse Al Mheiri likes. This is a first Jebel Ali run for the Acclamation gelding, but he should show up well in the hands of Adrie De Vries.
Mutaraffa faces nine, including veteran Raafid who will aim for a second course win, having scored here over five furlongs in March 2019. On the same mark, 76, as for that run, he can’t be ruled out although this trip might just stretch him.
A nine and a half furlong handicap wraps things up and Maqaadeer lines up here for Watson and Sam Hitchcott. A good fourth over a slightly shorter trip last time out in March when drawn 13, he is one of the leading players in a wide open race.
Sharjah hosts its first meeting of the campaign on Saturday and Shadwell run two. AF Muqna’a hails from top breeder Khalid A Nabooda’s Arabian Farm Stud and makes his debut in race three, a UAE-bred three-year-old maiden, for Al Rayhi and Beasley. With 13 opponents, this will be tough but he has drawn well in two, is sure to be fit, and should run well.
Sheikh Hamdan runs one in the concluding race, a Thoroughbred handicap over the extended mile. Thaaqib is now a pound lower than when winning at Meydan in February 2019 and has top weight here.He goes for French training and riding combination Erwan Charpy and Fabrice Veron and will break from stall nine.