CONSPICUOUS by their absence! That was entries when they were announced on Monday for this the first of the extra fixtures to be staged at Meydan this season. So much so that two of the seven races were reopened to allow owners and trainers the opportunity to avail of, in one case absolutely, the other virtually, guaranteed prize money! The 1600m maiden, for northern hemisphere 2yos and their 3yo southern hemisphere counterparts, initially attracted three entries so at least we know Emdad, Lahmoon and Superior were aimed at this target. Similarly, the sextet of Grand Argentier, Trinity Force, Storm Belt, Tried And True, Direct Message and Sa’Ada were always likely to contest the 2000m handicap.
However, Bois De Boulogne, who contested a course and distance handicap when staying on for second last week, has been added as what appears an ‘after thought’. The same applies to juveniles Luxor Temple, Queen Monaco and Martial Art, all added to the maiden, doubling the size of the field with all bar one guaranteed prize money. Trainers are paid to look after the interests of their owners, as well of course as the horses and that is what they have done so ‘hats off’ to them and to the authorities for allowing such opportunities by extending the entry deadline. Anyway, enough of that and on to the action which, as mentioned, includes a seven runner 2000m handicap with Champion Trainer Doug Watson, who saddled four Meydan winners last week, responsible for three of them.
Of the trio, only Grand Argentier was entered in a virtually identical race last week in which his owners, EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club) were already doubly represented by half of a Watson quartet in the race. Connections have clearly decided to wait a week with their dual course winner. Both victories have been achieved over shorter, at 1600m and 1900m, but he has been placed three times over course and distance. Pat Dobbs Trinity Force, a winner over track and trip at the very first meeting of last season, when Grand Argentier was third, is out again quickly after finishing well beaten in the equivalent race seven days ago. Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, he has not built on that victory in five subsequent outings, including two on turf, but is now rated a pound lower than he was when tasting that success.
He also won under these conditions in the November of 2017, on his second start of the campaign, albeit with a fortnight between races. His stable companion, Direct Message, was also in action last week, well beaten in a 1600m handicap. He did win over 1800m in the US and is tackling this trip, on dirt, for the first time but appeared to stay the distance when tried over it on turf in January. Sa’Ada represents the Ahmad bin Harmash stable victorious in the feature last week with New Trails and carries the colours of a new owner to the UAE in Salman Ali Alsabri. A 3yo, she receives weight from all her rivals and is, potentially, the ‘dark horse’, though she is actually a dark bay filly, in the race.
After six starts, four on the Meydan dirt, she remains a maiden but chased home subsequent UAE Oaks heroine, albeit at a respectable distance, Rayya on her local debut and actually finished a bit closer to the same rival in that fillies’ Classic. The yard enjoyed a Meydan brace last week and she looks one to keep a close eye on. The official highlight is a 1400m handicap for which eight were entered and all declared. A Seemar trio receive weight from the other five and Richard Mullen partners bottom weight Mazeed. Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea, based alongside his ‘old mucker’ Mullen at Seemar’s Zabeel Stables this season, is aboard Pilgrim’s Treasure with Connor Beasley picking up a nice spare on the yard’s third runner, Way Of Wisdom.
The weights are headed by Shajjy, one of three in the race sporting the world famous blue and white silks of Sheikh Hamdan but rejected by Dane O’Neill who has opted to ride Taamol for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. Erwan Charpy saddles the owner’s third contender, Mujeeb, who has the assistance of stable jockey Antonio Fresu. For Watson, Dobbs has given Lytham St Annes his vote of confidence with Hitchcott aboard new recruit, Lovell.
Race 1: Superior
Race 2: Sa’Ada (NB)
Race 3: Roy Orbison (Nap)
Race 4: Lovell
Race 5: Mightily
Race 6: Lavaspin
Race 7: Bochart