Author: Stephen Molyneux

CLOSE FINISHES didn’t stick around for long at Meydan with Thursday’s seven races won by a combined distance of just over 42 lengths. Such victories aren’t easy to assess, particularly the maidens. In the case of Taking Names it doesn’t really matter, as it is likely he will go straight to the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial or Guineas itself, and it is a case of waiting and seeing what other juveniles emerge before truly assessing his merit.

In the case of Kafoo, though, he will have to go straight into a handicap or even a pattern race if connections are particularly ambitious, so we can have a crack at wondering whether an opening mark of 90 can be defied. My gut instinct says he will have to be very smart to defy a lack of experience against hardened sorts off that sort of mark next time.

No doubt, his performance justified it with Al Maroom already having finished second in a maiden this season, and he was giving her 2kg, but this could be a case of him now needing a couple more starts before he justifies that initial impression. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is beaten next time but then gets back on track at some point this season as he learns to cope with the demands of more competitive racing.

Another Zabeel runner to keep an eye on is Ra’ad who has now shaped better than the bare result in both his starts here in the UAE. He could only finish fourth to Imperial Empire on Thursday, but his performance was remarkably similar to that of his debut here last season, in that he lost his position at a crucial time before staying on again at the death.

He won over 1200m in America, and is quite speedily bred, but all evidence is pointing to him needing at least 1600m now and I will be a supporter if he is stepped up to that trip next time. Also from that race, Rich And Famous lined up as one already put forward in this column. Unfortunately, a wide draw didn’t do much for his chances, and he was probably contesting a more competitive race than I thought he might so I wouldn’t necessarily give up on him next time if they can find a 1200m or 1400m race in a lesser grade.

Ultimately, I thought Mulfit beat a suspect field in the 2000m handicap and he could be one to take on next time off his 9 lb higher mark. He’d dropped to 73 after struggling in the main in his four starts last season, and a good position in the race (paid to be handy all night) helped him assert his authority over some plodders from the back inside the final 400m.

He started the 2019 season well before failing to go on from that and it may pay to take the view that something similar may happen once again. Sadeedd could be one to keep an eye on from the finale, particularly with the Nicholas Bachalard runners looking in need of their first outing. This one certainly appeared to carry a bit of pudding beforehand in the parade ring and he rather outran that initial expectation in staying on to finish fourth behind Vasari.

A strong pace helped to a degree, but a step up to 1400m next time could help and a drop of 2 lb to 76 will enable him to run in lesser races than this. He is one to keep an eye on. The action at Al Ain failed to get the juices flowing although one thing of note were the winners for Ibrahim Al Hadhrami. It has been a low key start to the campaign thus far for the talented trainer but he is now on the way towards his tally of 18 from last season and he could be worth keeping an eye on, particular at Al Ain where not all horses have looked particularly comfortable so far this season.

Stephen Molyneux
Dubai Racing Channel