Champion Trainer Doug Watson enjoyed a tremendous campaign last season, including a highly productive Carnival when Polar River was one of the undoubted stars.
Victorious in both the UAE 1000 Guineas and UAE Oaks, the 3yo daughter of Congrats then suffered her sole career defeat to date when constantly denied a clear run in the UAE Derby under a luckless Pat Dobbs, again in the saddle on Thursday.
She did well to finish second on that occasion and looks an exciting prospect for the new season. That said, this evening’s race conditions make her task an awful lot tougher and, as a 3yo filly, she finds herself giving weight to older males.
These include stable companion Grand Argentier who could be the main danger under Sam Hitchcott and the pair won a course and distance handicap in February.
That was the highlight of his first local season and it will be disappointing if he cannot build on that during this campaign with the benefit of a summer in the UAE sure to have completed his acclimatisation.
Watson said: “There are limited opportunities for these kind of horses and both mine are ready for a run having worked well in recent weeks. Obviously, Polar River has a lot of weight but this is the race we have aimed her at. Hopefully she can build on her excellent first season when she was a real star.
“Likewise with Grand Argentier; this looked a good race to get him back in action and we hope both will run big races.”
Pat Smullen will be aboard Top Clearance for Dhruba Selvaratnam who has swooped to secure the services of his former stable jockey after Chris Hayes, suffered a wrist injury a fortnight ago and is expected to be out of action for two weeks.
Like the Watson duo, Top Clearance is a course and distance winner, having triumped in a handicap at the end of January. Selvaratnam is hoping a trip to the vet over the summer will benefit the horse.
“He was gelded over the summer,” said Selvaratnam.
“His work has been good in recent weeks but, like all of mine, he will improve a lot for the first run back, especially after the surgery.”
The action swings to Al Ain on Friday for seven races, featuring a 1600m Purebred Arabian handicap. Eleven have been declared, including a trio trained by Eric Lemartinel for Sheikh Khalifa.
With Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea, claimed to ride El Salaam for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, Gerald Avranche partners Meydan Du Paon who looks the most likely winner for the Lemartinel team.
THAKIF HEADLINES FIELD FOR NATIONAL DAY CUP
Multiple Group I winner Thakif features among strong entries for the new-look National Day Cup to be staged at Al Ain Racecourse on Saturday, December 10.
The 1800m Conditions event, which carries a purse of Dh500,000, of which Dh300,000 goes to the winner, has attracted 42 entries, including nine from Oman.
The race has also been well-supported by the UAE’s leading Arabian stables, with multiple Group I winners Versac PY, owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Thakif, owned by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mansour Al Nahyan, among those nominated.
Al Asayl handler Eric Lemartinel, leading trainer at Al Ain during the 2015-16 season, is responsible for five nominations, including winner RB Burn who triumphed in the Group I Jewel Crown in Abu Dhabi last Sunday.
Majed Al Jahouri, who trains on the track at Al Ain, has put forward six potential runners, including Thakif, winner of the Group I President’s Cup in the capital over the last two years.
Course Director Faisal Al Rahmani said: “We’re so pleased that our new National Day Cup has been so well-received by owners and trainers. To have so many Group I winners, and international entries, in our first year is really special.
“We hope the race will continue to grow over the next few years and become one of the most sought-after prizes on the UAE calendar.”
Tadhg O’Shea, five-time UAE Champion and top jockey at Al Ain Racecourse for the last two seasons, said: “Al Ain is our newest track, so for them to have a race worth Dh500,000 is fantastic.
“We’ll all very much look forward to riding in it on December 10.”
The 2015 inaugural running went to Qatar and Kalino but he never threatened this time, finally finishing a well beaten 11th behind winner RB Burn, trained at Al Asayl by Eric Lemartinel for Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and ridden by the trainer’s French compatriot, Gerald Avranche.
The jockey rode a text book race on the local debutant and was able to settle his mount in fourth, saving ground on the rail but never likely to get trapped for room.
The European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship will continue to receive great support from the Government of Dubai as the tournament will take place for the eighth time from November 17 to November 20 at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
European Tour players battle it out in 47 tournaments in 27 destinations across five continents in the season-long Race to Dubai campaign to book a place in the year-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Since the inaugural event in 2009 a Government of Dubai committee has been overseeing arrangements for vital services and logistics at the tournament such as policing and security, traffic control, health and safety, medical support, access and emergency evacuation procedures.
All Government of Dubai authorities including the Dubai Health Authority, ambulance services, Civil Defence, Dubai Police, fire and emergency services, Roads and Traffic Authority, security and health and safety officers and trakhees are essential in making sure the DP World Tour Championship is as safe as it is enjoyable.
“Once again we thank all the Government of Dubai entities for their continued support enabling the tournament to run as smoothly as possible,” said Nick Tarratt, director of European Tour International.
“This year is the eighth edition of the DP World Tour Championship and we have gratefully received local Dubai sanctioning from Dubai Tourism, Dubai Sports Council and the Emirates Golf Federation.”
Fabulous support to continue Saudis have plenty of reasons to celebrate Smoking the field: RB Burn triumphed in the world’s richest Purebred Arabian horse race last night in the UAE capital. Arab world’s finest: Team Saudi Arabia. United: Dubai’s various authorities.
Fine double for Eric Lemartinel wins big in Abu Dhabi thanks to RB Burn and RB Dixie Burning Exiting the home turn, he switched out and RB Burn responded well, accelerating in style, hitting the front 200m out and soon well in control.
Avranche said: “I did not want to get to the front too soon so was happy to take my time. Since joining us, his work had been good so we were hopeful and it is great to win such a big prize.”
Half an hour earlier, Lemartinel initiated a 1600m double when saddling RB Dixie Burning to win the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship under Catherine Walton from England.
Owned by Sheikh Khalifa, Walton’s mount looked set to post an easy victory at the top of the straight but was tiring close to home. However, the jockey was not worried and said: “I did not have to get serious on her and she has done that without really being threatened.”
Earlier, 13 young apprentices were in action in the HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak (IFHRA) Apprentice Jockey Championship, also over 1,600m and turned into a procession by Qader.
Sporting the colours of Sheikh Mansour and trained by Jean de Roualle on his eighth career start, Qader was actually losing his maiden tag and was never headed under Dylan Dunn from Australia.
Dunn said: “That was amazing and I am so proud to be here representing my country and to win like that is very special and something I will never forget.”
The opening 1,200m maiden was won in smooth fashion by AF Mukhifah, ridden by Richard Mullen for Ernst Oertel and opening her account at the second attempt but first this season.
Oertel promptly doubled up with Ibn Harmany Al Zobair and Lyle Hewitson winning the following 1,200m handicap in which Mullen was second aboard Extra Hope.
Further disappointment then awaited Mullen in the evening’s only thoroughbred race, a 1,600m conditions contest in which he tried to make all aboard Seemar’s Invincible Strike.
The tactics looked likely to work until Pat Dobbs swooped in aboard the Shamaal Nibras just inside the final 200m.
Purebred Arabian horseracing aficionados are in for a real treat at Abu Dhabi Sunday evening with the second edition of the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian contest, the €1.2 million [Dh4.78m] 1600m Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown, the undoubted highlight of the six-race card.
Worth a tidy €720,000 [Dh2.87m] to the winner, last year’s inaugural running was won by Kalino, representing Qatar and Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani. Trained by Alban de Mieulle, he will again be ridden by Olivier Peslier, who said: “This has been his main target since last year’s victory. It looks a very strong race but hopefully he will go close.”
The three who chased Kalino home last year are all back in opposition but in what does appear a stronger renewal.
Second 12 months ago was Sahabba, the mount of Jean-Baptiste Hamel, who was prepared in France by Damien de Watrigant.
Thakif was third last year, his first run of a season which would include Group One victories in both the 1600m opening round of the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan and HH The President’s Cup, over 2200m, at Abu Dhabi.
Trained by Majed Al Jahouri, he will carry the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mansour Al Nahyan. Abhaar, the choice of Tadhg O’Shea, was fourth.
However, Kalino is more likely to be threatened by ‘newcomers’ to this particular party.
Of the local challenge, the Musabbeh Al Mheiri-trained AF Mathmoon, owned by Sheikh Hamdan, looks sure to run a big race. He finished last season with Group One in the 1400m Liwa Oasis, on the Abu Dhabi turf. and the 2000m Kahayla Classic, on the dirt at Meydan.
Dane O’Neill’s mount is certain to be put to the test in this star studded field in which all 16 have something to recommend them.
However, as transparent as the claims of many are, few can compete with those of Al Mourtajez, trained by Thomas Fourcy and ridden by Julien Auge.
Sporting the now famous silks of Al Shaqab Racing, Fourcy’s stable star arrives in Abu Dhabi as, surely, the best Purebred Arabian in the world, on turf. The winner of 12 races from 16 career starts, he arrives here on the back of four consecutive victories in a European campaign which began in May.