Author: Stephen Molyneux
The notebook might be a bit dusty come next October but hopefully it is worth sticking the following ten horses in there to follow for next season, it is never too early to look forward to 2019/20 right?
First in goes the next HH The President Cup winner, well he was the last as well, but the course and distance seems to suit Legendary Lunch ideally. These 1400m specialists are often a victim of their own successes due to a lack of opportunities, but he is two from two over the course and distance and his turn of foot, which can get lost down the straight 1200m at Meydan, is a useful asset at the capital. He has been tried on dirt without success and I imagine his final start at Meydan on that surface will persuade Fawzi Nass to stick to the grass. He could even threaten in the National Day Cup over 1600m, untried over that trip as it stands but he settles well and if they went steady enough he would be a big player.
There is a bit of a recent bias with Moojib having won at the penultimate Meydan meeting but that should set him up nicely for next season and a mark of 79 is more than workable. 1200m wasn’t much use to him on his first two starts and he really improved over the mile when breaking his maiden last time, showing a lovely action for the surface and he looks a horse that the Doug Watson team can have some fun with next season.
Midnight Sands is another with just a maiden win to his name, but he looks the sort to make into a smart sprint handicapper next season. Initially trained by James Given in the UK, Midnight Sands had just two starts in the UAE, finishing second to Tabarak before comfortably disposing of Shanaghai City with a couple of subsequent winners left trailing in his wake. Whether by accident or design, he missed the last month of the campaign, but it wouldn’t have been easy for a 3yo to take on his elders and he starts next season off a mark of 82, more than attractive given he ran in races such as the Coventry as a juvenile.
Whilst Midnight Sands bypassed handicap opportunities against his elders, Leading Spirit had a couple of cracks at it and that experience shouldn’t be lost on him next season. It is not inconceivable that both he and Midnight Sands contest the same sorts of races come November, and Leading Spirit has plenty of speed that can be utilised around Meydan. If anything, he was a bit flat at Meydan on his final outing when second to Chess Master, unable to lead as he had been doing at Jebel Ali, but he looks a useful prospect and could well develop into a carnival candidate.
It felt like a transitional season for the Salem bin Ghadayer yard, making do with many of the same horses that had done well last year, but in Important Mission they had one who emerged late on and he can carry forward that momentum when we next see him. It was when he was switched to the Meydan dirt that he really thrived, third to Lytham St Annes before comfortably landing a handicap on his final outing, his mark now 87 as a result. A couple of early wins next season and he will be plying his trade on the carnival stage.
From the same yard, Firnas is slightly more left field, particularly as he has looked far from straightforward so far, but in the hope he calms down a bit over the summer he can win races. Already gelded and tried in a hood, you may feel the yard are already running out of options, but he’s only had two starts here so far and his fifth to Carrington on the final day was certainly a run that contained promise, particularly as he once again messed around beforehand. His dam won the Fillies’ Mile and he cost Dh1.6 million for a reason, so hopefully he can fulfil his potential next season.
Nicholas Bachalard probably didn’t have the impact he would have craved when taking over at Jebel Ali, but it was very much a season of laying foundations and in Kaanoon he has a horse that he can look forward to next season. Limited to just the one start, Kaanoon stayed on takingly into second behind Ajwad at Meydan at the beginning of March, Ajwad winning twice subsequently, and Kaanoon shaped comfortably like the second best horse in the race, if not the best. A winner of three of his first four starts and never out of the first four in his career, he retains plenty of potential and can win races in Dubai.
George Villiers may only have won the once from five starts, and was disappointing on his final outing, but he shouldn’t be given up on just yet looking every inch a dirt horse and just three starts into his career on that surface. He made a winning debut on the dirt when beating Pillar Of Society and lost little in defeat when beaten to the punch by Thegreatcollection next time, that one winning again subsequently. His poor draw was enough to excuse him more recently and an early win next season off his mark of 88 should set him up nicely for the carnival.
It is never easy for horses to win on their debut and then go straight into a handicap and make an impact, which is why Blockchain remains of plenty of interest despite only managing sixth place behind Manahir on the final day of the season. Having impressed on his debut on dirt, he was switched to turf for his next start, and whilst not disgraced, he left the impression it was all a bit too much for him, including before the race when he was a little worked up. The promise of his debut shouldn’t be forgotten, even if the handicapper took no chances in giving him a mark of 85, and he is a horse that can win more races next season.
An early season maiden looks at the mercy of Chiefdom next year, particularly on dirt, a surface he is bred to relish and offering plenty of encouragement the once he raced on it. On that occasion, he was rushed around the whole field after a laborious first half of the race and it was no surprise to see him fade into fifth behind J Be Space. He was then switched to turf, and again looked too green to do himself justice, slowly away before racing prominently and fading into fourth behind Dolmen. As a 4yo, you might well question whether it is still inexperience that his holding him back, but he is worth the benefit of the doubt for now and this half-brother to Derbaas has shown more than enough to be suggesting that he can win races.
Dubai Racing Channel