Considered by many as the very best Purebred Arabian in the world, Al Shaqab Racing’s Al Mourtajez is set to grace the Abu Dhabi turf on Sunday, November 13.
Beaten only twice in 13 starts, Thomas Fourcy’s stable star won the Qatar Arabian World Cup at the beginning of the month and will face 15 rivals in the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian race, the €1.2million Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup Crown Jewel next week.
Selecting a horse to follow throughout the season is never easy when so much can go wrong before the beast in question even reaches a racecourse.
Trained by Dhruba Selvaratnam, Bluff looks an interesting prospect in his second UAE season. A trip to the vets, for the cruellest cut of them all, could well be the making of this talented but, previously, quirky individual.
BACK IN THE FOLD
Trainer Majed Al Jahouri [below] was totally dominant in local Purebred Arabian terms for two campaigns, highlighted by a remarkable clean sweep of all the Group One contests three seasons ago.
However, in April 2015 he had his licence revoked for 12 months after two of his horses tested positive for prohibited substances. He is back, from a new base in Al Ain and will be hungry for winners.
CHAMPIONS HARD TO DETHRONE
Barring miracles, perennial Champion Owner, Sheikh Hamdan, will retain the title he has harvested for 11 consecutive seasons.
Champion Trainer Doug Watson [below] is proving a perfect example of the adage ‘success breeds success’ and will soon be forced to erect a ‘no vacancies’ sign at his Red Stables base.
Another big season, both domestic and Carnival, surely awaits. Tadhg O’Shea again looks the one to beat in the jockeys’ list given the Purebred Arabian ammunition at his disposal, supplied by Sheikh Khalifa and trainer Eric Lemartinel.
A vital cog in the wheel of Balldoyle and Irish Champion Trainer Aidan O’Brien for very many years, Colm O’Donoghue has been appointed stable jockey by Ahmad bin Harmash.
With commitments for O’Brien this weekend and possibly at the Breeders’ Cup next Friday and Saturday, he will miss the very early part of the season.
His three UAE winners to date are highlighted by UAE Derby victory on O’Brien’s Daddy Long Legs in 2012.
Fans of former Champion Trainers Musabah Al Muhairi (right) and Ali Rashid Al Raihe fear their names are no longer on the racecard; they are, but have changed to Musabbeh Al Mheiri and Ali Rashid Al Rayhi respectively.
The ‘new identities’ are those listed in English on their latest passports.
Masar Godolphin, an academic and experiential scholarship programme targeting Emiratis, was announced yesterday at the Godolphin Stables in Al Quoz.
Operating under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Masar Godolphin will provide UAE nationals with a unique opportunity to embrace their equestrian heritage and become business leaders of the future.
The opportunity will be given to eight outstanding and ambitiousyoungsters aged between 23 and 30, who demonstrate a genuine passion for equestrianism, and who have the ambition to develop personally and professionally.
The programme will take place over 10 months, in Dubai, the UK and Ireland, and will comprise of various modules that include horse husbandry for breeding and performance, racehorse trainer placements (shadowing Team Godolphin trainers Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby and their senior team during their daily routines) and business management.
Masar (which is Arabic for ‘journey’) Godolphin will be run by Ali Al Ali, who is keen on unearthing the next leaders of this industry. “The love of horses is in the DNA of Dubai and the same pioneering spirit that you see in modern Dubai is felt in Godolphin, constantly looking forward, relentlessly innovating,” said Al Ali. “This is an extremely exciting time to be involved in thoroughbred horse breeding and racing and thanks to the ongoing support and guidance of His Highness, we are privileged to be able to extend this opportunity to the next generation of Emiratis.” Asked about the selection criteria for the applicants, Al Ali said they are looking for people with third degree level education and two or more years of experience in the thoroughbred industry or any equestrian-related field. Information and applications are available on www.godolphin.com.
Masar (which is Arabic for ‘journey’) Godolphin will be run by Ali Al Ali, who is keen on unearthing the next leaders of this industry.
“The love of horses is in the DNA of Dubai and the same pioneering spirit that you see in modern Dubai is felt in Godolphin, constantly looking forward, relentlessly innovating,” said Al Ali. “This is an extremely exciting time to be involved in thoroughbred horse breeding and racing and thanks to the ongoing support and guidance of His Highness, we are privileged to be able to extend this opportunity to the next generation of Emiratis.”
Asked about the selection criteria for the applicants, Al Ali said they are looking for people with third degree level education and two or more years of experience in the thoroughbred industry or any equestrian-related field.
Information and applications are available on www.godolphin.com.
In a global sense, the famous two-mile handicap, run on the first Tuesday every November, has really taken off. European stayers now flock to the race, owners from every corner of the globe get involved, and the race remains a fascination to virtually everybody inhabiting the huge continent sandwiched between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Godolphin have never been more widely represented. John O’Shea saddles the well-fancied Hartnell, fresh from his fighting second to Winx in the G1 Cox Plate, Saeed bin Suroor sends out Secret Number and Beautiful Romance, while Charlie Appleby, who has been mopping up the country cups, has Oceanographer and Qewy.
Local form analysts face a conundrum in Oceanographer. Can he endure his third race in 13 days? It is very unusual for a European stayer to cram in so many races in such a short period.
Oceanographer, meanwhile, appears to be thriving. Appleby reported: “He lost 5kg in body weight during his Lexus win, but (Monday morning) he has put 3kg back on. He looks well and he has eaten well. He has not left an oat since the race.”
Oceanographer turned in one of the best trials seen to win his way into the Cup field. His sectional times in Saturday’s Lexus were exceptional. He is a powerful stayer, just hitting his peak after 11 career starts. With a light weight of 52kg, he can win Godolphin its first Melbourne Cup.
Appleby also has a very healthy regard for Qewy, his Geelong Cup winner. “He is an old favourite in the yard, and is a very good horse on his day. He seems in great form, which he showed at Geelong,” he said.
Qewy, a gelding, is impeccably bred. He is by Street Cry from a half-sister to super stallion Dubawi. He is expected to take up a prominent position early in the race, though it is not imperative that he makes the running.
The Michael Bell-trained Big Orange, fifth in the Cup last year, seems a better and stronger horse this year. He has enjoyed a very good preparation and will be up near the front all the way.
Saeed bin Suroor astutely observed: “There will be pace on all the way this year. If the Europeans are prominent early, they will not take a ‘pull’ and slow the field down. They will keep galloping on.”
Ballydoyle runner Bondi Beach, the mount of Ryan Moore, is expected to run a big race. He will be more mature this year, which will stand him in good stead.
O’Shea believes Hartnell also to be in better form this year. His G1 Turnbull Stakes run was a beauty and very hard to forget. If he reproduces that effort, he can clinch it.