Ed Marnane: Dubai – Satish Seemar-trained George Villiers, a R1.5-million purchase at the Racing in Dubai Sale in September last year, justified his lofty price tag by winning on his dirt debut at Meydan and holds sound claims of completing a quick double in a non-World Cup Carnival meeting at the track on Thursday.
The well-bred son of Dubawi, a half-brother to multiple Group 1 winner and Hong Kong champion Viva Pataca, defeated Pillar Of Society and nine others in good style.
Formerly trained by John Gosden in Newmarket in the UK, George Villiers had to overcome a wide trip to open his UAE account under Richard Mullen, the champion jockey. He ran on strongly in the closing stages, leaving the impression he had plenty more to offer and would improve for the experience.
Unlike most of his rivals in Race 5 today, he is very unexposed under these conditions and is fancied to again see off the reopposing Pillar Of Society, trained by Doug Watson.
Racing gets underway with a Maiden Plate over 1400m on dirt and Raayan, one of six three-year-olds in the field, should enjoy the switch to dirt having finished a well-held sixth behind Bila Shak in a maiden on turf.
Earlier in the campaign, the Ali Rashid Al Rayhi-trained colt wasn’t disgraced in a couple of decent events behind the useful Moshaher and the smart Walking Thunder, the subsequent impressive winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas and leading hope for the UAE Derby later in the month.
Despite being done no favours with his draw in stall 14 today, he demands respect in a race that isn’t particularly strong.
Mullen and his main employer Satish Seemar team up with Heraldic in Race 2, a competitive handicap. This horse is enjoying a productive campaign, winning twice already at Meydan. Failing to score in his last three appearances, he has slipped in the ratings and looks attractively treated on his earlier form.
Dangers are aplenty, Heraldic’s stable companion First Down arrives in good heart, winning at Jebel Ali six days ago, and will be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea, the season’s leading rider. Spirit Of Scotland, beaten a neck by First Down, represents an in-form trainer and wasn’t disgraced behind Illusional in a decent handicap on his last visit to Meydan.
Almanaara, twice a winner over 1200m on dirt at Meydan, heads the weights in Race 4.
Winless since landing this race 12 months ago, he produced his best effort of the campaign behind Rodaini when failing to see out the 1400m trip after travelling strongly.
Stepping back in distance, Watson’s charge will be hard to beat in the hands of Jim Crowley for owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
Ed’s picks for Meydan:
Best bet: 4 George Villiers (Race 5)
Best value: 8 Mayaadeen (Race 6)
Best Swinger: 1 Almanaara and 5 Beachcomber Bay (Race 4)
Jackpot (Races 4-7, R24): 1, 5 x 4 x 1, 6, 8, 9 x 3, 9, 11