Domestic turf racing makes a welcome return to the UAE’s flagship racecourse with three of the seven races to be contested on ‘the green stuff’ which will have also been used on Thursday’s first night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival less than 48 hours earlier. The two turf handicaps are providing the perfect opportunity for those on the cusp of carnival qualification, that being a handicap mark of 95 on grass, and among the maximum allowed field of 16 in the concluding 2000m handicap, a pair of Doug Watson trainees will be hoping to boost their claims and current ratings of 93. It is no surprise to see Pat Dobbs has opted to ride Empoli who was far from disgraced when fourth on his sole start this season, over 2400m at Abu Dhabi and was a Group One winner in his pomp, in September 2014.
He has one career success since, over 2200m at Abu Dhabi in November 2017 when ridden by Dobbs before finishing second in the equivalent race to which he was fourth three weeks ago. Very little went right for him in his three carnival outings last year but, despite having turned nine on Tuesday, showed plenty to suggest he is more than capable of being competitive off 93. Also on 93, his stable companion, Mutamakkin, has already had three outings this season, the two most recent on dirt, and the return to turf should suit. He has finished seventh, in big fields, on both previous attempts at 2000m, once on turf when not beaten far in an ultra competitive Glorious Goodwood handicap. A repeat of that effort would see him in the mix and he certainly should not be lacking for race fitness so cannot be ruled out in a competitive heat.
The weights are headed are Mr Pommeroy who will be having his first start for Mohd Ramadan having previously been trained by Salem bin Ghadayer for whom he was third in both the Group 2 Al Rashidiya and Listed Dubai Millennium Stakes at the 2015 carnival. However, he will be returning here after 1400 days off the track and a watching brief has to be advised with plenty of more interesting contenders in opposition. On that score, pride of place has to go to Farrier whose career highlight, in success at least, was achieved in the stamina sapping 1950m Listed Jebel Ali Stakes in 2017 when outstaying dual Jebel Ali Mile winner Forjatt. Trained by Satish Seemar, few could have begrudged him that big race success having gone so close on previous occasions, highlighted by his second to Godolphin’s Tryster in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday at Meydan in 2016.
A Meydan Tapeta winner, on debut in February 2012, his subsequent four victories have all been at Jebel Ali but he contests this off a mark of 90, his lowest rating since landing a Jebel Ali handicap over 1800m in December 2012 off 89. He was seventh in the race Brass Ring won whereas Rio Tigre, a dual 1800m Jebel Ali winner already this season for Sandeep Jadhav and Royston Ffrench, disappointed in last. He is better than that and it looks significant he runs here, on turf, having sidestepped a seemingly very viable option at Jebel Ali last week. Having finished fourth on his local debut in a 2000m Meydan dirt handicap, New Bid then won over the same course and distance for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. A dual turf winner in Britain for Godolphin, including over 2700m, he looks likely to be staying on in the long Meydan straight.
A fast early gallop would certainly aid his cause and if Litigation is in the same mood as she was when making all the running in a 2000m handicap on the Meydan dirt at the beginning of November, he should get that. She was then well behind New Bid in the race he won four weeks ago, again disappointed last weekend at Sharjah and has yet to win on turf so she may be best watched here. Sixteen have also been declared for the 1600m turf handicap with Watson’s new recruit, Pouvoir Magique, attempting to concede weight all round. Twice a winner in the UK when trained by John Gosden for Princess Haya, both times over 1600m, he has a rating of 94 and connections must surely harbour carnival ambitions.
Stable companion, Grand Argentier, is having a fourth start of the campaign, one which started with an excellent second to another Watson trainee, Tried And True in November. He has not run to the same level twice since but is looking feasibly treated on a first turf outing since February. Trained by Nicholas Bachalard for Sheikh Ahmed, local debutant To Dibba had some useful British form for Roger Varian and is another to consider.