The Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club revealed a healthy set of entries for the Qatar Derby at Al Rayan Park on 29 December with 69 entered for the 1m2f 3yo only Thoroughbred version. Opened to international competition, the race has attracted interest from the USA, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Germany, the UAE and Bahrain alongside a strong local contingent of potential contenders. Last year’s renewal produced a thrilling dead-heat between Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s Tannaaf, trained by South African Mike de Kock, and German raider Rogue Runner.
The latter was saddled by Mario Hofer whose compatriot, Andreas Wohler, has Noor Al Hawa entered this year, and who boasts the highest official rating with a lofty perch of 113. Owned by Emirati Jaber Abdullah, the son of Makfi won both of his last two starts, both in Group Three company at Dusseldorf and ridden by Eduardo Pedroza on each occasion, who was aboard Rogue Runner last year, Rated 112 is Ralis, trained in America by Doug O’Neill for the colt’s owner and breeder, Reddam Racing.
He won the Group 1 Hopeful Stakes as a juvenile but has not won since and is yet to win on turf after five attempts. Scarlet Dragon, from England and France’s Maximum Aurelius are next in the ratings, just ahead of Footbridge from Saudi Arabia. The best of the five fillies entered, according to the handicapper, is Mango Tango, now trained by Ibrahim Al Malki having won in France for Pascal Bary before joining current connections for €400,000 in October. Recent Qatar Thoroughbred Guineas victor, Opera Baron, could attempt to complete a memorable double for Champion Trainer Jassim Mohammed Ghazali.
The handler will also have high hopes for Pleaseletmewin, one of 28 entries in the previous afternoon’s Al Rayyan Stakes, a 1400m nursery (2yo handicap). The prize went to England last year when Brian Meehan saddled Perkunas to land the valuable prize and could attempt a repeat with Giovanni Battista. Winner of his only start to date, a Newmarket maiden at the end of October, the gelded son of Clodovil impressed many on that occasion and would be an interesting contender if making the trip to Doha.