Played in very still and unseasonably hot weather first up was the much anticipated clash between last year’s Grand Finalists the Multiplex Bulls and Dubai Dragons.
Every year and every match this rivalry goes up another level and Friday’s battle did not disappoint.
The first quarter as usual was tight with both teams forced into errors around the ground but the Dragons took a slight seven point lead into the second quarter.
The Dragons started the second quarter firing and jumped to a five goal lead thanks to Jake Kane and Travis Hayward in the midfield but as they always do the Bulls fought back with two late goals from Ted Stobart and captain Nathan Holly
It was one way traffic in the third quarter with the Dragons regaining their five goal lead as the tall forward Daniel Gribbin started to find some space.
Bulls full back George Rahhal was sensational all day and managed to keep the Dragons danger forward Ryan Perkins to just one goal.
The last quarter was goal for goal early on but then the Bulls made their usual late charge bringing the game within three goals, however they were beaten by the siren with Dragons winning 17.9.111 to Bulls 14.9.93
In the later game the Falcons from the capital were convincing winners against the Dubai Dingoes 29.9.153 to 5.6.36 with Zac Moon the star kicking eight goals.
It has been a season to forget for the Dingoes but they are confident they will bounce back in 2018/19 with a strong summer of recruiting.
The final home and away games take place on Friday March 2. The Dubai Dragons will travel down to Abu Dhabi to take on the Falcons while the Dingoes will host the Bulls in Dubai.
This final round will lead into the Grand Final on March 16 out at The Sevens Stadium, which is set to be a repeat of last year’s decider: another epic encounter between the Bulls and Dragons.
|3||Abu Dhabi Falcons||5||2||3||0||412||355||116.06||8|
A head to head battle between Promising Run and Furia Cruzada in the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes sponsored by AZIZI Developments, highlighted Saturday nights seventh meeting of the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival (DWCC), one of just two Saturday race-nights to be staged during the 2018 DWCC.
The US$200,000 event included a thrilling finish between Godolphin’s multiple G2 winner and race favourite Promising Run and multiple G1 winner Furia Cruzada, who was running on nine days’ rest following a fourth-place finish in the Al Maktoum Challenge R2 (G2) on dirt.
The former, under Pat Cosgrave for trainer Saeed bin Suroor, held on by a diminishing head over her Antonio Fresu-ridden South American champion foe in exciting style.
Penalised for their victory in the 1600m Group 2 Cape Verdi (G2), also for fillies and mares, three weeks ago, Promising Run carried her 58.5 kgs to the front soon after turning for home, but quickly came under attack from Opal Tiara, winner of this race last year for England and trainer Mick Channon.
Cosgrave’s mount shrugged her off 200m out, only for Fresu and Furia Cruzada to throw down a determined, late challenge in the centre of the track.
Ultimately holding on, Promising Run was part of a treble on the evening for the Godolphin blue.
“To be honest, things did not really go to plan this evening and in such a small field I would have much preferred a faster early gallop but we did not go very quickly,” Cosgrave said.
“It then became a bit messy and, not wanting to disappoint her, I was in front plenty soon and we were there to be aimed at.
“In fairness to her, she has seen off the challenges well and then had enough to thwart the very last one.
“A faster run race will suit her and, remember, she has done that under a penalty, so you have to be happy.”
Thurs. and Sat. Gold Town jockeyed by William Buick, won the UAE2000 Guineas - $250,000. Heavy Metal jockeyed by Michael Barzalona lead the charge at Firebreak Steaks. Promising Run won Balanchine Both staked at $200,000 #HorseRacing Pic. #DubaiWorldCup https://t.co/RH3YPUmkIf pic.twitter.com/koZi4sdSim— Dubai Polo and Racing (@DubaiPoloRacing) February 18, 2018
Sun Classique, Cladocera, Very Special and Sajjhaa –the last two bin Suroor trainees– had all previously completed the Cape Verdi and Balanchine double.
Sajjhaa went on to win both the Jebel Hatta (G1) and Dubai Turf (G1).
The evening’s co-feature was the $200,000 Firebreak Stakes sponsored by AZIZI Developments (G3) over the same dirt course and 1600m distance as next month’s $1 million Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City – District One (G2).
From halfway, there was only ever going to be one winner with big favourite Heavy Metal never threatened under Mickael Barzalona and able to register his sixth course and distance victory emphatically for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer and owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum.
Winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 (G2) on the first night of the carnival six weeks ago, over the same track and trip, he was penalised for that success and was also making a quick return to action, having finished a tired third in the 1900m Al Maktoum Challenge R2 last Thursday.
“He just loves it here at Meydan and this dirt surface,” Barzalona said.
“The 1600m is probably his ideal trip and he has won that today without me having to ask him to do anything.
“He seems to anticipate the start and knows when it is time to go.
“That helps him get to the lead, and the rail, after which he has proved many times he is a hard horse to pass.
“The 1900m last week was probably too far for him and I guess the Godolphin Mile will be his main target.”
We're keeping an eye on the #DubaiWorldCup! Here's a look at horses who are aiming towards the $10 million dollar race on March 31st as of today. For updates & on-site coverage from @DWC_Meydan be sure to #WatchTVG! pic.twitter.com/C689laZRJl— TVG (@TVG) February 15, 2018
It was perhaps not quite as easy but the same connections made an immediate return to the winner’s enclosure after the virtually identical success of front-running Yalta in the following 1200m dirt handicap, the $125,000 Mina AZIZI.
It was a first UAE victory for the horse in his sixth attempt.
“He is only four and, if you look back, was a very good, fast juvenile,” Barzalona said.
“He has shown he retains his speed and ability but getting his head back in front is important.
“This should have done his confidence a lot of good and it would be nice to think he could cope with a step back up in class.”
The meeting opened with the $175,000 AZIZI Riviera, a 1200m turf handicap in which only five started following the late defection of Steady Pace.
Over the same course and distance four weeks ago, representing Australia and David Hayes, Fatinaah had made all under Jim Crowley and HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s sprinter tried to repeat the trick here.
However, they were stalked throughout by William Buick aboard Baccarat, trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin, and runner-up to Fatinaah on that previous occasion.
Keen early on, Buick’s mount was soon travelling happily in behind the leader.
Moving strongly to the leader 300m out, the chestnut 9-year-old proved best with a three-length victory.
“He actually broke well tonight, which for him is not ideal, especially in a small field because he needs cover and we could not get that for the first 150m, so he was fighting for his head,” Buick said.
“Then he raced in a lovely rhythm just behind the leader and everything went very smoothly from about halfway.
“He is a real stable favourite who has a great record here at Meydan and has a real good following with the crowd here as well.
“All being well, he should be competitive in the Al Quoz Sprint on the Dubai World Cup card.”
FACES AT THE RACES #DWCCarnival #Meydan #MeydanRacing #MeydanRacecourse #HorseRacing #DWCCarnival #DubaiWorldCup #Horse #Dubai #Countdown #DRC_Meydan #DubaiRacing #ComeRacing #AlTayerMotors #JaguarMENA #LandRoverMENA#Jaguar #LandRover pic.twitter.com/ZIRqwkUAOk— Meydan Racing (@DRC_Meydan) February 15, 2018
Blair House, under jockey James Doyle, completed a treble for Godolphin and a double for Appleby when running on strongly to land the $125,000 AZIZI Victoria, a turf handicap over 1800m in which he was chased home by the same owner’s Mountain Hunter, saddled by Bin Suroor.
“He had run well twice already this season so we knew he was in form and I was happy to get the chance to ride him,” Doyle said.
“He enjoyed himself being settled in amongst horses and has taken every gap when they appeared, hit the front going strongly and then ran on well.”
The $60,000 Aliyah AZIZI, a non-carnival 1800m turf handicap, looked competitive beforehand but that proved not to be the case when Mike de Kock-trained Baroot stormed clear under Christophe Soumillon, riding for owner Sheikh Mohd bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.
“He was probably a bit unlucky and a bit fresh last time so we thought he had a big chance today,” Soumillon said.
“We jumped well and it took 50m to find cover and get him relaxed.
“After that, I was always happy as I knew we would get a nice lead into the race and he can improve from this as he is probably still not 100% fit.”
The finale, the $125,000 Shaista AZIZI Handicap over 1400m on turf, was won in gritty fashion by game English invader Oh This Is Us, from the yard of Richard Hannon.
The Irish-bred son of Acclamation carried top weight of 60kgs and held off the Godolphin pair of Top Score and Van Der Decken.
Tom Marquand was aboard for the victory, giving one of the top trainers in England his first UAE victory.
A UAE Special Olympics athlete will represent the Middle East this weekend at NBA’s most high-profile and star-studded event of the year.
Butti al Sheezawi will take to the court at the NBA All-Star weekend in Los Angeles surrounded by some of the most famous names in basketball including LeBron James and Stephen Curry.
Al Sheezawi is flying into LA as part of a program between Special Olympics and NBA Cares, the league’s global social responsibility program, to promote Unified Sports — an initiative around social inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities through shared sports training and competitive experiences.
Al Sheezawi will also participate in the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game, supported by Her Excellency Shamma Bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chair of the Special Olympics UAE board. The game will take place at Los Angeles Convention Center on Saturday and Al Sheezawi will play alongside fellow Special Olympics athletes from around the world, including Kenya, Serbia, the U.S. and Germany, as well as NBA legends and current WNBA players.
Speaking ahead of his trip, Al Sheezawi said: “I am delighted to represent my country and the Middle East at the NBA All-Star weekend and to participate in this famous American sport alongside other Special Olympics athletes and players with intellectual disabilities (ID) from around the world. I can’t wait to meet all the famous players, especially Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neill who are my heroes.
“I am very proud to be an ambassador for the UAE at this international event as I prepare to represent my country at the IX MENA Games and hopefully win the gold medal.”
Al Sheezawi, 31, will represent the UAE next month at Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 in Abu Dhabi and again at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. He previously represented the UAE at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
Born in the UAE, Al Sheezawi’s parents noticed at a young age that he enjoyed watching basketball on TV. By the age of 12 and encouraged by a teacher he started playing the sport and by the time he was 15 turned professional.
Butti Al Sheezawi, @SOMENA68, has been playing basketball since he was 12 years old. Mastering the sport has driven him to develop his skills, take care of his health & live confidently. 🏀🏀🏀
— Special Olympics (@SpecialOlympics) February 6, 2018
Her Excellency Shamma Bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, said: “Special Olympics is dedicated to promoting inclusion and empowerment through sports and the Unified Sports program epitomizes these values. We are incredibly proud of Butti and cannot wait to watch his dreams unfold on the court this weekend as he represents Special Olympics UAE and promotes tolerance and unity on a global stage.
“Unified Sports gives those with intellectual disabilities the chance to play alongside those without intellectual disabilities, in turn breaking down stereotypes and empowering people with and without intellectual disabilities.”
The NBA All-Star weekend is a hotbed for celebrities and Al Sheezawi will rub shoulders with Hollywood and sporting greats on Friday night as he watches the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, featuring amongst others: actor Jamie Foxx, rapper Common, sprinter Andre De Grasse, golfer Bubba Watson, boxer Terence Crawford and NBA legend Tracy McGrady.
Al Sheezawi and his fellow Special Olympics athletes will then watch the iconic Slam Dunk competition, Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge on Saturday night before enjoying the main event on Sunday – the 67th NBA All-Star Game, captained by the two biggest names currently in the sport – Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.
Special Olympics IX MENA Games from 14-22 March 2018 in Abu Dhabi will act as a signature event for the capital as Abu Dhabi prepares to host the World Games in 2019, the world’s largest human and sporting event for people with intellectual disabilities.
The Games will act as a catalyst to change lives and all of the preparation and events that are happening ahead of them will serve as key factors in improving the lives of those with intellectual disabilities across the Middle East.
More than 1,000 athletes from 32 countries will travel to Abu Dhabi to take part in MENA IX Games 2018, March 14 – 22, which will be the first major sporting event of the Abu Dhabi Prepares series of events leading into the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
Athletes will take part in 16 different sports that will be hosted in eight different venues including ADNEC, Zayed Sports City, Yas Marina Circuit, NYUAD, Officer’s Club, Mubadala IPC Arena, Al Jazira Sports Club and Al Forsan Club.
Held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will see the biggest humanitarian sporting event in the world coming to the Emirati Capital, marking its first debut in the history of the MENA region.
Special Olympics IX MENA Games and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 are a part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 that highlights full integration of people of determination into everyday society.
Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the most ‘unified’ games in history and promise to offer an inclusive experience for those with and without intellectual disabilities.