Having trounced his rivals by over five lengths during a Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting in February, Ekhtiyaar is set to contest the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint as he bids to land a starting spot in the prized Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. Owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 5yo gelded son of Bated Breath flew to the finish under retained rider Jim Crowley to win by an impressive five and a quarter lengths from Riflescope, whom he snatched the lead from with just under 200m to run. Champion Trainer Doug Watson’s charge will now have to truly step it up as he takes on even stronger foes, including the same owner’s Group 2 Meydan Sprint second Faatinah, in the prep for the $2 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint.
Darren Bunyan’s Exceed And Excel speedster Hit The Bid will also be poised to take his shot, having finished second on both his Meydan outings, most recently to the Fawzi Nass-schooled Mazzini, another who is expected to take his chance on Saturday. Ekhtiyaar’s victory was on only his second run for Watson and was his fourth win from 13 lifetime starts and his American handler is happy with the way things have progressed so far. “He came out of his race really well,” Watson said. “He’s been doing well this whole time and he acclimated really well once we had him this year. We ran him the first time and we were hemming and hawing about running him back over 7f or keeping him at six. “We wondered if he stayed or he didn’t or he just needed the race.
We decided to wait for the 6f race once we decided on that. Six is his trip for now and he showed that.” Looking towards Super Saturday, Watson said Ekhtiyaar’s workload would be light. “We won’t do much with him between now and Super Saturday,” Watson continued. “I’m trying to keep him fresh. I know he’s fit, so there’s not much to do with him. He’s going to have to step it up one more time. You don’t see sprinters run off like that at the end here, especially from a bad draw; most like to be in the middle or near the outside rail. It was impressive.” Doubled in purse this year, the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint is bound to attract a starry global cast, where Godolphin’s Meydan Sprint winner Blue Point is so far the hot favourite. Al Quoz Sprint probables: Blue Point, Faatinah, Hit The Bid, Ekhtiyaar, Sands Of Mali, Mazzini and Stormy Liberal.