THE ONGOING season has been one of milestones for Doug Watson, who sent out his 600th UAE winner during last Thursday’s Dubai World Cup Carnival card at Meydan. And you can say that the Red Stables boss perhaps reached 600 a tad quicker, carried afloat by what was another record night when he became the first trainer in UAE history to sweep through an entire card, winning all six races scheduled at Meydan on 7 November. His stable star this season Midnight Sands contributed on that night just like the 4yo Speightstown colt did last Thursday when winning a 1600m dirt handicap at the Dubai marquee racecourse.
It what turned out to be an absolutely tense finish, Midnight Sands under Pat Dobbs came good in the final strides to beat Grade 1 Breeders Cup Dirt Mile starter Ambassadorial by a short head to make it win No. 600 for Watson, who leads the DWC Carnival trainers standings with five winners having scored on every carnival night this year. “I was thinking about my 600th winner going into tonight,” said Watson, who has won the UAE Champion Trainers’ title six times. “The owner of Thegreatcollection, Zaur Sekrekov, sent me a picture and I didn’t realise we reached 500 with Thegreatcollection. I thought, ‘wow, this could be funny’.” Watson can enjoy the fact he is in the process of hopefully collecting a seventh trainers championship as he sits atop the leaderboard with 24 winners for the season, three more than his long time arch rival and one time supervisor Satish Seemar, the Zabeel Stables supremo.
You could argue that Watson has enjoyed a fair bit of luck, but it has often been a case of him making his own. To start with he sidestepped a career in finance and took a chance on racing purely due to his love of horses, which was acquired from spending time on the farm of a friend in Ohio. He could have galloped up the corporate rung over time with his qualifications. But, disillusioned with having worked in the finance field, he saddled up to try his hand at racing. “I went to college and earned a degree in finance and took a job for six months, but I hated it so I decided to give training a shot,” Watson told Al Adiyat.
A native of Centreville, Ohio, Watson started to learn his trade cleaning stalls and grooming horses at Chicago’s famous Arlington Park Racecourse. Thereafter came his chance to move to Dubai and work under Seemar. From there, he moved to Red Stables where he served as a long time assistant to Kiaran McLaughlin, who when relocating to the US left his seat vacant for Watson to take over in 2004. The rest as they say is history with Watson claiming his first UAE Trainers’ Championship in only his third season in 2005/06 and adding to that tally with consecutive wins in 2007/08 and 2008/09. His most recent run of titles included a hat-trick from 2016 to 2018. Add to those wins six second place finishes in the championship and you can see why Watson is currently the second winningmost UAE trainer with 601 victories, Illusional providing the standalone single under Sam Hitchcott to win the 2000m handicap at Meydan last Saturday.
Watson is no stranger to Dubai World Cup night success and has twice claimed the Group 2 Godolphin Mile with One Man Band, who led home a remarkable 1-2-3 for the American in 2016, and Second Summer defending the title for Red Stables the following year. “I thought I’d give it a shot for a year or so and so many years later I’m still here,” said Watson who arrived in the UAE in 1993. Today, he calls the most unlikeliest of cabin spaces his office as he sits behind his desk pondering over papers that show the way towards another season. He is nearly 7,000 miles away from home, but very much at home. After all as the good old adage goes: ‘Home is where the heart is’. “It’s great to be here you know. New horses always keep me going.
Winning races is always exciting for us trainers and I love competition, but overall this job is just very gratifying. There’s a lot of things to like about the job,” he told Al Adiyat. “It has been a nice few years. We have a great staff and what a group of owners who give us some nice horses to train. Obviously that includes His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Mohammed Khalifa Al Basti. “I can’t go through them all. There are so many of them, including Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, who has given us some very nice horses. You have to have the horses to win races. We have the horses and we have the staff who can get them ready to run. “We are very fortunate. I came up under Kiaran McLaughlin and I took the job when he left. He left a good bunch of horses, which made life easier for me in the first few years, and a good team of staff. They are the main drivers behind it. “People ask my if I would like to go back to the States and do this, but I say this is the best job to ever have in horse racing. Being a trainer, I don’t think you can be in a better place.”