Ed Marnane – Trainer Doug Watson’s stable jockey Pat Dobbs makes a welcome return to the saddle at Meydan on Thursday with a strong book of rides.
The Irish rider missed several recent meetings after sustaining a foot injury in a fall during trackwork at Red Stables. Given the current red-hot form of the yard, Dobbs’ short spell on the sidelines frustratingly cost him a few winners and he will be eager to get back in action on an attractive seven-race card.
Dobbs’ best chance on the night could be Royal Sands in Race 4, a 1400m handicap. The British import, formerly trained by James Given, went into many notebooks after his recent local and dirt debut at Meydan, finishing a creditable second to Rich And Famous over 1200m. He was entitled to need the run, returning from a lengthy break, while the step up in distance is clearly a bonus given the manner he stayed on powerfully in the closing stages two weeks ago. He makes plenty of appeal.
Earlier on the card there is a disappointing turnout for Race 2, a 1200m maiden restricted to three-year-old fillies. Watson, responsible for three of the five runners, has a good record in the race and the Dobbs-ridden Super Chianti looks his main hope. By Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, she warrants obvious respect.
In this race, where four of the five runners are unraced, the Salem bin Ghadayer trained Jumeirah Beach is one to consider as she has the benefit of experience, albeit she showed little in a minor event at Ripon in August for Mark Johnston, dropping away tamely after making the early running. By Exceed And Excel and a half-sister to top stayer Dee Ex Bee, she can’t be dismissed and could be dangerous if allowed dominate from the front.
Jebel Ali trainer Nicholas Bachalard enjoyed success with a nice newcomer at his local track on Friday and is represented by Nayefah, a $125,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland September Sale. Also by Super Saver, it’s slightly disconcerting she is fitted with cheekpieces on her racecourse debut.
Watson and Dobbs team up with Far Sky in Race 3, the second maiden on the card. The US-bred three-year-old made a promising start to his career when runner-up in a 1600m maiden at Meydan last December, a performance that caught the eye given he was badly drawn out wide in stall 16 and endured a tough trip. He disappointingly failed to reproduce that form in his next two starts before signing off the season with a fair effort behind Miqyaas in March. Gelded in the off-season, Far Sky is drawn nicely on his seasonal debut and looks to have sound claims.
Zabardast failed to justify favouritism on his comeback here two weeks ago, trailing in a poor fourth behind shock winner Lady Snazz. Trained by the in-form Salem bin Ghadayer, Zabardast could easily bounce back and if he can recaptures his form in the UAE 2,000 Guineas, he ought to go well and reward punters who keep the faith.
The unraced Zero To A Hundred, trained by Satish Seemar, is an interesting albeit expensive recruit from the Racing in Dubai Sale last year. By Dubawi, the most successful sire at Meydan (on dirt), he is out of the high-class Icon Project, winner of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign (on dirt).
Antonio Vivaldi, placed in two runs on turf last season, completes the shortlist on his seasonal debut. He could be vulnerable trying dirt for the first time on the back of a ten month break.
Only eight horses have been declared for Race 5, a 1600m rated conditions race, and it looks highly competitive with many familiar names. Fanaar, to be ridden by Dobbs and one of three runners representing Watson, made a pleasing start to his campaign at Jebel Ali and should be sharper for the race. He demands respect on his Meydan dirt debut.
Course specialist Thegreatcollection, not seen since landing the Jebel Ali Classic in March, looks well down the pecking order on riding arrangements and is best watched on his seasonal debut for Watson, while Galvanize is vulnerable racing off a stiff mark and is likely to be better for the race.
Dane O’Neill, retained by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, could have ridden Fanaar and Hakeem but has chosen Alkaamel, a wide-margin winner at Meydan on his latest appearance in March. He’s unexposed under the conditions and has more to offer.
George Villiers, a three-time winner on dirt, all over today’s distance, has the assistance of champion jockey Tadhg O’ Shea and makes some appeal.
Casey Jones showed ability in two runs last winter, including over today’s course in February. He’s very unexposed, unlike most of his rivals and shouldn’t be overlooked from the foot of the weights.
Race 1: 5 RB MONEY TO BURN; 10 AF ALWAJEL; 13 RAWAA; 4 JAYIDE AL BORAQ.
Race 2: 5 SUPER CHIANTI; 3 JUMEIRAH BEACH; 4 NAYEFAH; 2 HESHMAH.
Race 3: 5 FAR SKY; 8 ZABARDAST; 2 ZERO TO A HUNDRED; 3 APOLO KID.
Race 4: 3 ROYAL SANDS; 2 RICH AND FAMOUS; 1 MAYAADEEN; 8 MAZEED.
Race 5: 7 CASEY JONES; 5 ALKAAMEL; 1 FANAAR; 4 GEORGE VILLIERS.
Race 6: 4 KINVER EDGE; 2 IMPORTANT MISSION; 12 DAHAWI; 14 CALIFORNIA JUMBO.
Race 7: 1 GUNDOGDU; 8 MEQDAM; 7 LADY SNAZZ; 4 IMMORTALISED.
Best Bet: 5 Far Sky (Race 3)
Best Value: 1 Gundogdu (Race 7)
Best Swinger: 5 Far Sky and 2 Zero To A Hundred (Race 3)
Jackpot (Races 4-7):
Leg 1: 1, 2, 3, 8
Leg 2: 1, 5, 7
Leg 3: 2, 4
Leg 4: 1, 8