The first big Thoroughbred race of the season is upon us with the sixth running of the 1200m Listed The Garhoud Sprint in which we are guaranteed a new name on the trophy in a race only three horses have won to date. Dual winners Rafeej and Muarrab, both owned by Sheikh Hamdan are joined on the roll of honour by My Catch who was saddled by Doug Watson whose Kimbear heads the weights this year. Owned by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Kimbear made a very impressive local debut when ‘sluicing home’ in a 1600m carnival handicap on the Meydan dirt in January. He then finished second twice, over 1600m and 1400m, before landing the 1600m Group 3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday.
Prominent early, he faded in the closing stages in the Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night and will be having his first start since over a trip he has only tried twice, when second both times, including on his penultimate start in the US. Penalised for that Super Saturday victory he does not face an easy task conceding weight to some seasoned sprinters, including his stable companion, Almanaara. Owned by Sheikh Hamdan, this striking grey was ultra impressive, over today’s 1200m course and distance, when winning on his second local outing and seasonal debut almost 13 months ago. Third then fourth he ended the campaign with a victory in a handicap in the middle of March.
Other than his 1400m UAE debut at Jebel Ali in March 2017, he has been campaigned solely over today’s track and trip. Musabbeh Al Mheiri, seeking a fourth win in the race for Sheikh Hamdan, relies on dirt debutant Ibn Malik who does have the advantage of an outing this season. That was over 1600m on the Abu Dhabi turf and he has only tried 1200m once when well beaten in the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes at Newbury in July 2016. Previously trained by Charlie Hills, the second of his career victories was registered in the 1400m Listed European Free Handicap at Newmarket. He was then beaten in races won by the likes of subsequent Group One winners Ribchester and Jungle Cat before arriving in the UAE.
He finished sixth in both his two runs at the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival, both over 1200m on turf, on the first occasion beaten almost three lengths by Dutch Masterpiece. Owned and trained by Jaber Ramadhan, Dutch Masterpiece, another racing on dirt for the first time, was a revelation at the 2018 carnival, finishing out of the first three just once, on Super Saturday.On his penultimate outing he chased home the versatile High On Life. That was over 1200m on turf but High On Life, a 1200m Jebel Ali winner last season and quick enough to finish first past the post over 1000m up the hill there, surprised many by showing sufficient stamina to win on the very first day of the season.
That was also at Jebel Ali and achieved after running loose beforehand, having parted company with Royston Ffrench on exiting the parade ring. Returned to 1200m, again at Jebel Ali, three weeks later, he was disappointing when only fifth but it would be no surprise to see him bounce back, especially if able to get an early lead. The exciting Raven’s Corner, who connections reportedly feel may need this return to action, was due to contest this race last year before dislodging Richard Mullen in the stalls and was subsequently withdrawn. A course and distance winner in February 2017, he broke the 1400m Meydan track record 53 weeks later, surging clear of Kimbear to win by seven lengths. In the care of Satish Seemar, prior to that track record performance he was third to Drafted, another in here for Watson and who certainly cannot be discounted in a tricky race for those playing the Pick Six on course.
Juveniles get their chance to shine in a 1600m conditions race with previous course winners Superior and Walking Thunder. Penalised, both are trained by Ahmad bin Harmash for the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate with Connor Beasley opting to partner the latter. With a trio making their debut it really does strike as a race to keep a close eye on with regards to the future and perhaps 2019 Classic aspirants. For Bin Harmash, Rodaini should go well in the 1400m handicap in which Watson’s Pillar Of Society should be thereabouts for Watson.