IT WAS GREAT to have the public back at Jebel Ali a fortnight ago and those in attendance certainly helped create the atmosphere that was lacking all last season when they were not permitted to attend. All that was missing was a ‘home team’ success for racecourse patron Sheikh Ahmed, his trainer Nicholas Bachalard and jockey Richard Mullen. Sheikh Ahmed’s track is all about the public, their picnics and appreciation of the action, as well as their enthusiastic response as the story unfolds.

This third Jebel Ali meeting of the new season is highlighted by a pair of Dh100,000 conditions races, both over 1200m, with one restricted to 3yos. That 3yo contest brings together an exciting field and the local outfit have a chance as Bachalard saddles Taakeed, whose opposition is arguably headed by Doug Watson’s Uncle Hamed, rated 97. Five opponents appear to face a tough task with Uncle Hamed also looking for a third straight win.

The 3yo Tapiture gelding has the benefit of winning his only start this term and though he won by just a neck at Meydan on 4 November, that will have propped him up nicely to lay down the gauntlet against a foe he has lost twice to before and by big margins. The 1200m rated conditions stakes should go Watson’s way as he unleashes some really top performers in Al Tariq and Shadwell’s Khuzaam, the latter whose rating of 116 shows he is clearly a prospect for next year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival.

Al Tariq also carries a steep rating, 110, and could be the one to watch here as he steps into the gates as defending Jebel Ali Sprint champion, having beaten Fanaar by a length and a quarter in last season’s renewal here in February. Al Tariq went on to win the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint thereafter and took in minor money on Dubai World Cup day when finishing sixth in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen.

Khuzaam, formerly trained by Roger Varian, has had reasonable experience running in Group affairs in Britain, but he marks his UAE debut here and going up the hill for the first time is bound to be a stiff ask.

Bhupat Seemar saddles Leading Spirit, whose only UAE win was achieved in a 1000m sprint here in January 2020. The 5yo Exceed And Excel gelding had a rather tepid last season and was unplaced in three starts and must improve to have a say in this, while Ahmad bin Harmash will be hoping Story Of Light can do the same and progress from his opening run which ended in a close third place finish behind Ababil on 29 October.

The best of two handicaps is over 1600m and has attracted a field of strong divisional names including Helal Alalawi’s Mystery Land, a dual winner here over 1400m. Fifth on his opening run this season, Alalawi sends him after a four week break, hoping he can come forward, which would be the same thinking employed by Seemar, who dispatches Law Of Peace, second in that same race.

The 4yo Shamardal gelding has finished runner-up in all three runs here, after marking his UAE debut with victory in a 1600m maiden at Abu Dhabi in February. Watson returns Exciting Days to action, looking for more excitement from the 4yo Blame gelding, who won his maiden fairly comfortably on the opening day of the campaign here over 1400m.

Watson could have a field day in the 1950m handicap as well with Sharjah winners Rougher and Maqaadeer lining up alongside Seemar’s Lady Snazz, pipped by a neck over track and trip last December. New owners Ultima Thoroughbreds Holding Ltd make their debut in the 1000m juvenile maiden with the Seemar-trained Fusion Gold, while the six race card is completed by another maiden, this one over 1400m.

Selections

Race 1: Yurman
Race 2: Uncle Hamed (NB)
Race 3: Al Tariq (NAP)
Race 4: Yakfeek
Race 5: Obeyaan
Race 6: Exciting Days