SEVEN RACES! The new Jebel Ali season has a new structure with an extra race at each of the 11 meetings so Pick Six players you are now entering a Pick Seven, though it remains ‘branded’ as a Pick Six. An interesting card to kick off the new UAE season, highlighted by a Dh120,000 handicap over the straight 1400m on a course there has, reportedly, been plenty of remedial work carried out over the summer. As a consequence, any draw bias we may have focused on last year can be forgotten, at least for the duration of the first few races on both straight and ‘horseshoe’ shaped courses. And another notable change: anyone who used to time their arrival for the big race beware; it is now race four, not three.
That said, given the earlier start to allow the extra race and avoid running the last in the dark, the runners will be departing the stalls at about the same time. Anyway, enough housekeeping and time to get our teeth really stuck into the action! ‘A baker’s dozen’, or 13 for those not familiar with pastry makers, will face the starter in the featured 1400m handicap in which the weights are headed by High On Life, trained by Sandeep Jadhav, embarking on a campaign for the first time as trainer at Fazza Stables having been appointed in March. He is clearly determined to make an impact, saddling his own ‘baker’s dozen’ throughout what is going to be a busy afternoon.
Returning from injury, Royston Ffrench had the choice of three from the yard and has opted for High On Life, a 1200m course winner who was also second in the 1000m Listed Jebel Ali Sprint in March. The 1400m is unchartered waters though as he has yet to race beyond 1200m, a trip he has also won over on turf at Meydan. Stamina may be an issue for him, but certainly not so in the case of Cosmo Charlie whose headline performance was landing the 2017 Listed Al Bastakiya, over 1800m, at Meydan. Representing Champion Trainer Doug Watson, he had a Jebel Ali ‘sighter’ in the valuable Jebel Ali Classic (Silver Jubilee), promptly landing the spoils over the same 1400m as Friday’s contest, beating Sholaan.
He looks to have plenty in his favour and it is great to see proven Dubai World Cup Carnival horses in action so early in the season. One of four runners on the card for new Jebel Ali trainer Nicholas Bachalard, Sholaan, is one of two in this feature for the yard but the mount of Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea, with stable jockey, Chris Hayes, opting to ride Haalick. An exciting recruit two seasons ago, Haalick has only had four outings in the UAE, a pair in each of his local campaigns, and is returning here having been off since December last year. This will also be his dirt debut though he has won on the all-weather at Lingfield. Daily Bulletin made a winning local debut over course and distance in the middle of November last year.
Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, he is the mount of Fernando Jara. In a wide open contest, Riflescope, for Satish Seemar and Richard Mullen, Zainhom, trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri and the choice of Dane O’Neill from two Sheikh Hamdan runners, and Somerset House are others to consider. The last named represents the new partnership of Helal Al Alawi and William Lee. Two handicaps worth Dh95,000 appear the main support races and have attracted large, competitive fields. Of the pair, the penultimate race on the card, over 1200m, has actually attracted the maximum field allowed of 16, with four reserves standing by in case needed. Again Ffrench and Jadhav combine with the top weight, in this case Pirate’s Cove, a 1200m winner at Meydan in January but well beaten on his sole previous visit to Jebel Ali, albeit over 1400m when he perhaps did not see out the trip.
Above Normal looks a big threat for the always feared Seemar and Mullen pairing, as does stable companion Welford. The mount of O’Shea, he will sport the silks of Touch Gold Racing in a contest Seemar actually saddles six. There are also two maidens on the card and, this early in the campaign, could well be worth keeping a close eye on with regards towards the rest of the season. And it could be in the second of these, and the afternoon’s finale over 1200m, in which Bachalard and Hayes have their best opportunity of a winner, courtesy of Tobrave.