HATS OFF and a big thank you to the Jebel Ali management team for striving to get this fixture to go ahead after losing the previous three meetings due to concerns about the state of the track but the UAE’s most popular racecourse is back in action, just in time to stage their biggest race of the season, the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile, obviously over 1600m. The good news that the surface had been approved by jockeys and stewards after a trial on Monday morning was greeted by an excited whinny from Doug Watson’s Red Stables, emanating from the box of Shamaal Nibras who will be contesting the race for a sixth consecutive year.
Victorious in 2018, this admirable 11yo gelded son of First Samurai was also runnerup in 2015, 2017 and again last year, as well as being beaten just over two lengths when sixth in 2016. He would have circled this date in his equine diary when the fixtures were released and the chances are as I type this, at ‘silly o’clock’ on Tuesday morning, he is telling his mates ‘tis my race on Friday, cannot wait’. Joking aside, he has four Jebel Ali victories to his name, including two 1400m Jebel Ali Classics (Silver Jubilee) in 2017 and 2019 but it has to be pointed out he has finished well beaten in both the National Day Cup and that race’s prep at Abu Dhabi this season.
His owners, EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club) will be hoping a return to Jebel Ali revives his fortunes as he bids to become the race’s third dual winner after Treble Jig (2012 and 2013 and Conflict (2001 and 2004). Watson, for Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, also saddles the progressive Mystique Moon and course specialist Just A Penny presenting Pat Dobbs with quite a dilemma, he opting to partner Shamaal Nibras. A 6yo Shamardal gelding, Mystique Moon, fifth to Shamaal Nibras in the 1400m Jebel Ali Classic (Silver Jubilee) last April, was a winner over 1700m at Sharjah in December 2018, over 1400m here at Jebel Ali last February and again over that course and distance on his reappearance at the beginning of November before failing to fire, or perhaps stay the trip, in the 2000m Listed The Entisar at Meydan in December.
Just A Penny, an 8yo Kodiac gelding, has only ever won at Jebel Ali, no less than seven times over trips varying from 1200m to 1950m but not since March 2018 and he was a long way behind Mystique Moon on his sole appearance this season in November. He has also been well beaten in this race twice, last year and in 2017. Third, a neck behind Shamaal Nibras who, incidentally, did not enjoy a clear run last year was Behavioral Bias, a 6yo Shackleford gelding who made a very pleasing reappearance, just last Thursday, in a 1200m dirt handicap at Meydan. Trained by Satish Seemar, he is a hard horse to predict and is joined in the field by stable companions and dirt debutant Seniority, formerly raced by William Haggas for HM The Queen and Yulong Warrior, the yard’s 2018 Listed Al Bastakiya winner at Meydan on Super Saturday 2018.
In a fascinating renewal, Chiefdom is defending an unblemished Jebel Ali record having won both course starts, over this 1600m at consecutive fixtures in November. He has since finished second over 1600m on the Meydan dirt tack before switching to the turf at the UAE’s flagship racecourse, again victorious over 1600m. Trained by Salem bin Ghadayer for Sheikh Hasher Mohd Al Maktoum, the presence of this 5yo The Factor gelding should guarantee the race is contested at a generous gallop. For Phoenix Ladies Syndicate, Ahmad bin Harmash saddles Superior, as a 4yo the youngest member of the field. A colt by Majesticperfection, he has had just five career starts, winning on debut, as a 2yo, over 1600m at Meydan with a career best seemingly posted when chasing home, albeit at a respectful distance, Divine Image in the 1900m Listed Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday last year. Back at Meydan just last week, he was well beaten in a 1600m handicap and his yard seem to be struggling for form.