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Meydan`s Al Tayer Motors Card Features Dubai World Cup Carnival "Trials" on Thursday

Rafeej wins the Garhoud Sprint
Photo: Erika Rasmussen
(www.erikarphotography.com)

Key Listed Races and a Group 2 Purebred Arabian Contest Set to Highlight

Meydan Racecourse’s fourth meeting of the season tomorrow (Thursday) is sure to provide a number of clues ahead of next month’s Dubai World Cup Carnival with three Listed races featuring a number of proven Carnival runners while the Purebred Arabians contest the Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah.

The penultimate race is the Listed Garhoud Sprint, a 1200m event which has attracted a field of nine.

Rafeej, owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum has won both runnings of this recent addition to the Meydan calendar for trainer Musabah Al Muhairi.

Jockey Dane O’Neill, who was in the saddle when Rafeej won the race in 2013, renews his partnership with the six-year-old while Sheikh Hamdan’s first jockey, Paul Hanagan has opted to ride Muarrab.

A stable companion of Rafeej, giving Sheikh Hamdan and Al Muhairi a particularly strong hand, Hanagan’s mount was impressive when making a winning return to action at Jebel Ali three weeks ago.

Winner of last season’s Jebel Ali Sprint, all Muarrab’s eight local victories have been achieved on Jebel Ali’s testing uphill dirt track.

This will however be only his third run at Meydan although he was an excellent second in the Listed Dubawi Stakes over the same 1200m earlier this year. Penalised for his Jebel Ali Sprint victory, Muarrab concedes weight to his eight rivals.

“He obviously loves it at Jebel Ali,” said Al Muhairi. “But he has run well on both visits to Meydan and should do so again. I am looking forward to running him.”

Rafeej made his seasonal debut six weeks ago at Jebel Ali at the first meeting of the UAE season. Only third on that occasion, his absence since would suggest his preparation has not been straightforward and the return to his optimum conditions should suit.

“Obviously he has won this in each of the last two years so conditions are ideal,” said O’Neill. “He really needed his first run so should strip a lot fitter.

“I won on Muarrab at Jebel Ali three weeks ago and he gave me a great feel so he will be the one we have to beat I think.”

Rafeej is not the only big race winner from 12 months ago returning to defend a crown - the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Purebred Arabian, AF Lafeh attempts to land consecutive victories in the 1600m Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah.

He was ridden by Royston Ffrench in 2014 but new stable jockey, Tadhg O‘Shea takes over the reins this time.

“He should run his usual solid race,” said O’Shea. “It looks a strong renewal though, especially with Manark in there.”

Manark was the winner of last season’s Dubai Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup day and is trained by Frenchman, Erwan Charpy for Sheikh Hamdan.

Disappointing on his seasonal debut on Abu Dhabi’s turf, Manark does need to bounce back and must also overcome a penalty yet his class is undoubted.

“He is working very well and the return to dirt is hopefully in his favour,” said Charpy. “He ran badly at Abu Dhabi last season before winning both his Meydan starts so, hopefully, he can regain the winning thread.

“We have to be very hopeful.”

Back in the Thoroughbred ranks, Satish Seemar has won both the previous runnings of the 1600m Dubai Creek Mile with Surfer whose name appeared among the entries for this race but was not declared.

Instead the trainer relies on Gold City, the mount of Richard Mullen who has been off the track since finishing a close sixth in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night.

However, he was well beaten in this last year on his seasonal return and, since a winning debut as a juvenile in 2011, his record fresh is not great.

The Doug Watson-trained Layl, who finished behind Gold City in both the Godolphin Mile and when third in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday also lines up and looks to hold a live chance.

“This has been the plan for his return to action all along,” said Watson. “He is working well and should run a big race.”

The third Listed contest of the night, The Entisar is run over the same 2000m as the Dubai World Cup and features Farrier from Seemar’s Zabeel Stables, a highly consistent performer and fresh from an 1800m victory at Jebel Ali last month.

Also lining up is the Al Raihe-trained Haatheq, last seen on Dubai World Cup day when finishing fourth to Tamarkuz in the Godolphin Mile. Meanwhile Jeeran, prepared by Watson, will be backing up from his December 3 victory at Meydan where he was two lengths ahead of Torchlighter another who will be renewing the rivalry on Thursday.

General admission to Meydan Racecourse is free and there are hospitality packages to suit every budget. For more please visit www.dubairacingclub.com, call +971 4327 2110 or email ticketoffice@dubairacingclub.com.