David Marnane believes the group of horses he has brought to this year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival from his native Ireland represents his strongest chances in the international race season to date.
He suspects the inclement weather that prevented his four charges, Elleval, He’s No Saint, Jamesie and Red Dubawi from making their planned January 28 departure from the Irish winter may play to his advantage on raceday.
“We couldn’t get the horses out of Ireland because we’ve had some bad weather and the ferries weren’t sailing,” said the trainer who will race three out of his four charges at the opening Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting on Thursday.
“It may have been a blessing in disguise,” said Marnane, whose horses arrived in Dubai on Sunday. “The horses have been trained for these races but we just adjusted the timescale so that the last piece of work took place in familiar surroundings at home instead of Dubai.
“Now we will just give them some light canters and essentially race them off the plane. Dandy Boy won like that for us in 2011 so it wasn’t the end of the world.”
Thursday will see Elleval, winner of the 2013 Meydan Classic Trial and runner-up in the Dubai World Cup-day UAE Derby, start his campaign in the Listed $150,000 Singspiel Stakes over 1800m of Meydan’s turf while Jamesie will race in a 1400m all-weather handicap and Red Dubawi has a spot in the 1000m turf sprint.
“We were lucky to get the horses out when we did because the weather was bad,” said Marnane, who like all Dubai-bound Irish trainers ships his horses across the Irish Sea to connect with flights from London’s Heathrow Airport.
Interestingly, Marnane has a strong connect with Dubai. He spent eight years in the emirate with stints as assistant to two former UAE Champion Trainers, Kieran McLaughlin and Doug Watson.
“Dubai has been very good to us,” he said. “This will be our fourth season at the Carnival and we have been lucky to have a winner every year and made Dubai World Cup night with two of our runners when Elleval ran second in the 2013 UAE Derby and Nocturnal Affair was sixth in the Al Quoz Sprint in 2012.”
For the second year running Champion Trainer Ernst Oertel saddled the winner of the Listed opening round of the Arabian Triple Crown at Abu Dhabi for his main employer, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Last night it was Nymphea Du Paon, emulating stable companion Shayel Aldhabi, who won the 1,600m feature last year, with the four-year old filly making virtually all the running under James Doyle.
An impressive winner over the same course and distance on her local debut a fortnight ago she has now won four of her five career starts.
Doyle said: “She was very game there as she had to fight hard and showed she is very tough. We were well away so I was happy to go to the front as I knew she has a great attitude and she really showed that here to beat a good field.”
Majed Al Jahouri’s runners are always feared, especially his Pure-bred Arabians and he combined with jockey Harry Bentley to win a 1,400m handicap with the impressive Duzar.
Slowly away, as he tends to be, Bentley did not panic and the pair made smooth progress on the home turn before surging to the front 200m out – after that the result was never in doubt.
Bentley said: “He has always shown plenty of ability and it was basically a win waiting to happen. He showed a nice turn of foot and did that very nicely in what looked a hot race beforehand.” Bentley was back in the winner’s enclosure after the penultimate race, a 1,600m conditions contest, in which he steered Safir Bainuna, owned and trained by Ahmed Al Mehairbi, to victory.
The jockey said: “I actually won an identical race on this horse on his last start and we knew we had a good chance of following up in this slightly stronger race. He has only had six starts and it would be nice to think he is improving and can continue to do so.”
The only Thoroughbred race on the card, a 2,400m handicap, was won in style by Inthar, ridden by Richard Mullen for his main employer, Satish Seemar.
Settled in mid-field, Inthar made smooth progress from 600m out. The pair swept to the front to win going away, repeating their 2,200m victory of three weeks ago.
Mullen said: “We were delighted with that win the last day and he has improved with that run under his belt. These conditions really do suit him and he is a nice horse who has not had too much racing.”
Carlos Sandoval guided Manan to a close win and deny stable companion Theoretically in an exciting conclusion to a 2,200m handicap, in which the first eight were separated by about five lengths.
Both winner and runner-up are trained on the Abu Dhabi track by Eric Lemartinel.
Trainer Jameel Salman doubled his tally for the season with the well-deserved victory of Live Rich in the opening 1,600m maiden with Xavier Ziani performing the steering.
The pair hit the front 400m out and held on grimly in the closing stages. Ziani said: “I have ridden him four times this season now and we have been third, second twice and finally won one.
He quickened clear nicely and then showed a real battling attitude.”
The Racing at Meydan meeting today (Thursday) marks the seven-day countdown ahead of the first Dubai World Cup Carnival race day of the new term on January 9.
The year’s first raceday is highlighted by a 1600m handicap and trainer Doug Watson saddle three of the 14 runners and a case can be made for each.
Stable jockey Pat Dobbs rides Maath Gool, a turf winner at Abu Dhabi on his seasonal reappearance over 1600m but only sixth, over 1400m at Meydan, on his only subsequent outing.
Stable companion Maqaarat also made a winning start to the season, in his case over 1600m on the Jebel Ali dirt, and has contained in good form. This will only be his third run on the Meydan Tapeta.
He is owned by Sheikh Hamdan, as is Watson’s third runner, Ostaad, who will be making his UAE debut on only his fifth career start.
He has good form on a similar surface in England and the owner’s second jockey, Dane O’Neill, has chosen to ride him.
Watson said: “It is nice to have three good chances in a wide open race and all three have reasonable draws.
Maath Gool has won on Tapeta and ran well enough last time over 1400m. We then earmarked this race for him.
“Maqaarat had a wind operation at the end of last season and has been running well since. He ran ok on the surface last season and it will be interesting to see if he can transfer his dirt form to Meydan.
“Ostaad is a nice new horse in the yard and we have been very pleased with him since he arrived. We have worked him at Meydan and he seems to like the surface. We think he will run well and hopefully all three will be com-petitive.”
O’Neill rides Ostaad because Sheikh Hamdan’s first jockey, Paul Hanagan, elects to ride Mundahesh, trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe and winner of his only UAE start to date, a 1400m Meydan handicap.
The weights are headed by dual course and distance winner Canwinn, ridden by James Doyle for Dhruba Selvaratnam and Warsaw, having his second start for Satish Seemar.
A Dubai Carnival winner in both 2009 and 2011 for Mike De Kock, Warsaw returned to action at Jebel Ali last Friday having previously been off the course since March 2012.
Comicality, the mount of UK Champion Jockey Richard Hughes and having only his third career start, looks the one to beat in the 1200m handicap.
It is the UAE’s flagship race-course’s final meeting before next Thursday’s opening fixture of the $37million Dubai World Cup Carnival.
WHAT: Racing at Meydan
WHEN: Thursday, the first race starts at 18:45
VENUE: Meydan racecourse, Dubai.
Sport360 VERDICT: As the racing fraternity warms up for UAE’s biggest annual sporting event, the Dubai World Cup Carnival in March, soak it all from the Grandstand