DOUG WATSON has won all three editions to date of the 1400m Jebel Ali Classic (Silver Jubilee), including the inaugural running in 2017 and again last year with admirable veteran Shamaal Nibras who is back for another crack on what will, likely, be his racecourse swansong. An 11yo gelded son of First Samurai he has been an amazing servant for Watson and owners EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club) and has been campaigned sparingly, this will be just his fifth outing of the season. On his penultimate start he was runnerup to Chiefdom in the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile having chased home Secret Ambition in the same race 12 months earlier and winning it in 2018.
Watson is clearly determined to retain his unbeaten record in the race he also won with Cosmo Charlie in 2018 with Mystique Moon, a dual course and distance winner but only fifth in this 12 months ago, joined by Jebel Ali debutant Thegreatcollection to give the trainer a strong hand. The latter was actually due to contest this in 2018 but was withdrawn at the start but has always appealed as a horse who might enjoy the straight track and stiff uphill finish. Pat Dobbs stays loyal to Shamaal Nibras with Sam Hitchcott opting to ride Mystic Moon leaving the spare ride on Thegreatcollection for Adrie de Vries. On official ratings, with a lofty perch of 103, Thammin is the one to beat, trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri for Sheikh Hamdan whose blue and white silks are to be well represented including by Thammin’s stable companions Zainhom and Tashweeq.
His colours are also due to be carried by Fanaar and Motafaawit, another pair for Watson, not to mention the Ali Rashid Al Rayhi-trained Eqtiraan. Responsible for six of the 19 entries received by the Emirates Racing Authority on Monday, five run with retained jockey Dane O’Neill opting to partner Fanaar with first jockey, Jim Crowley, in action in Britain. Zainhom, for the record, was declared in a competitive 1600m handicap. Satish Seemar looks likely to be crowned Champion Trainer and his four entries included both his 2018 Al Bastakiya winner Yulong Warrior and Ode To Autumn, victorious in both his two most recent outings, over this course and distance at each of the last two Jebel Ali fixtures. The former was not declared whereas the latter will be ridden by Fabrice Veron with Richard Mullen opting to ride local debutant and stable companion Medahim for John Fretwell who used to retain the jockey in the UK.
Cenotaph will be having just his second local outing. Trained by Erwan Charpy, he gives the EERC team a fascinating second runner with conditions promising to suit this talented 8yo gelding. The main support race is a 1400m conditions event for 3yo fillies which appears far less competitive than the main event. The only previous winner in the field, and thus penalised, is Seemar’s Amani Pico who was a neck too strong for Mahjooja, trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, in a 1400m Jebel Ali maiden a fortnight ago. On the revised terms the latter should reverse the placings but the form of the Bin Harmash team has been a worry for most of the season. On ratings, Ismail Mohammed’s Varsha and Watson’s Tapi Sioux are the pair to beat with preference for the latter because the former appears to prefer turf.
Having just their third career appearances and without official ratings to date, Watson’s Raahia and Seemar’s Madame Ellingtina merit respect. Jockey bookings suggest Tapi Sioux is the preferred of the Watson duo, Madame Ellingtina from the Seemar pair.Again the meeting is closed to the general public but the racecourse have generously organised an online Pick Six competition.