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Grain fancied to Cross line ahead before Rocket Powers home - Meydan Preview (Thursday)

07/12/2017
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PUREBRED ARABIAN action returns to Meydan for the first time since the Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup night with the 1400m Group 2 Bani Yas, won last year by AF Mathmoon, second on the night but subsequently awarded the race. Traditionally staged in February, this race was moved to this much earlier slot 12 months ago, offering a Meydan prep race to connections targeting the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1, over 1600m, in five weeks time. That said, Fryvolous (2009), Manark (2015) and the aforementioned AF Mathmoon (2016) all won this, in February, on their way to landing the Kahayla Classic.

So, if not uniquely, certainly very unusually, AF Mathmoon actually won the Bani Yas twice in 2016 but in different seasons! Twelve months ago, though well beaten at the time by Shateh, he was chased home by Burning Breeze, some 12 lengths in arrears and one of three entered in this year’s renewal by Helal Al Alawi who will be seeking to join Doug Watson, who is not represented, at the top of the trainers’ table on 13. Yet to win in the UAE, after ten attempts, he cannot be overlooked with his trainer in such good form and in what appears a weaker renewal of this contest than it was last year.

Similarly, his stable companion, RB So Rich, a remote fifth 12 months ago, has yet to open his local account and this will be his 21st attempt, while Al Alawi’s third runner, RB Goliath does have four Al Ain victories to his name, albeit at a much lower level. He is, though, the choice of Pat Cosgrave. On official ratings, RB Madymoiselle, one of two entered in the race by Ernst Oertel but the only one declared, is the one to beat, despite having shown precious little in her two runs for the trainer. However, both have been in Group One company, a level at which she did win in the US, over 1800m, in September of last year.

RB Torch, a distant eighth in this last year for Eric Lemartinel and Sheikh Khalifa, beat stable companion Darius Du Paon, a big winner at Abu Dhabi on Sunday, on his seasonal return and was also victorious on this card, in 2015, over 1600m. Anyway, Pick Six players may wish to pay special heed to the above because, as race two, it is the first contest in the ever popular selection competition. Two Dh190,000 handicaps are the best quality of the six Thoroughbred contests and Nathr, one of three in the race for Champion Trainer Watson, heads the weights in the one over 1600m.

Thrice a winner in the UAE, twice over this course and distance, he was well beaten, over 2000m, on his seasonal debut four weeks ago but, with his trainer saddling four winners at the subsequent Meydan fixture, it would be folly to ignore anything the yard runs. Stable companion, Grand Argentier, a dual Meydan winner, once over this track and trip, was third, staying on well in the same 2000m handicap Nathr contested, whereas the trainer’s third contender, Galvanize, made a winning return to action.

That too was four weeks ago, his first local win on his fourth outing for Watson, the first of which was when chasing home Grand Argentier over 1900m in February. Ennobled Friend, trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, will be having his fourth start already this campaign, seemingly facing his easiest task of the season. Outpaced over 1000m at the very first meeting at Jebel Ali five weeks ago, he has subsequently contested two featured rated conditions stakes and has dropped slightly in the handicap ratings. Cross Grain appears a fascinating contender for Satish Seemar and has always appealed as a horse with a big future, ever since winning on his racecourse debut three years and one month ago.

The problem with him is that was a belated debut, at the end of his 4yo campaign, and he has only had nine runs since so is clearly not easy to train. His initial success was here, at Meydan, over 1400m on Tapeta, his second, exactly a year later, over this 1600m on dirt. His third victory, in March 2016, was on turf at Abu Dhabi over 1400m, so there is no doubting his versatility and his only defeat on seasonal debut was last year, 53 weeks ago to be precise, when ninth in the National Day Cup. Three, namely Azraff, Hornsby and Jaaref were also entered in both this and the second valuable handicap on the card, over 2000m, so connections’ choices of target, Hornsby’s being this shorter race, have to be respected.

That said, more realistic winners appear elsewhere in both races, in the latter a shortlist starting with Trinity Force, a course and distance victor at the first meeting of the Meydan campaign, four weeks ago. Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, he led close home under Tadhg O’Shea to deny Watson’s Mizbah. The latter is owned by EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club) who will be hoping their Active Spirit can gain revenge both for them and Watson. Thrice victorious at Meydan, once over this course and distance, he had little chance from a wide draw on his seasonal bow, over 1600m, and should strip a lot fitter here.

The choice of Pat Dobbs, he is drawn ten with just Bluff on his outside so, again, the computer has done him few favours regarding stall number. Trinity Force is not the only runner seeking a second victory this campaign with Dehbashi, another for Watson, looking to add to his success, over track and trip, two weeks ago from the aforementioned Jaaref, in opposition for Al Rayhi. Running in handicap company for the first time is Sheikh Ahmed’s Midnight Chica, the only filly in the race, trained by Gopi Selvaratnam and second in last season’s UAE Oaks. She was staying on well on that occasion, over 1900m, before failing to beat a rival in the UAE Derby.

Stamina looks her forte and, likely to need this comeback run, she could be one to keep an eye on later in the season but is the choice of Oisin Murphy in preference to stablemate, Bluff. Rocket Power, fifth on his first start for Bin Harmash having won, over 1200m at Jebel Ali for Al Alawi, looks to hold strong claims in a 1400m handicap.

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