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Watson Looking to Fly High on Emirates Airline Card

Photo: Mutahaddith
Credit: Dubai Racing Club//Andrew Watkins

Meydan Pillar Partner Backs Opening Meeting

Meydan Racecourse hosts its first meeting of the new season tomorrow (Thursday) with a valuable Emirates-sponsored card worth AED1,155,000 in prize money across seven races.

The UAE racing fraternity returns to Meydan for the first time since US superstar, California Chrome claimed the US $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup on March 26, 2016.

Seven races provide the evening’s entertainment, highlighted by the featured Emirates Airlines Handicap over 2000m. The race carries prize money of AED195,000 and UAE Champion Trainer, Doug Watson holds a strong hand with four runners declared.

Last time he was at Meydan Watson achieved a 1-2-3 in the $1,000,000 Group 2 Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup day. And the American handler does not appear to have lost his touch during the summer after achieving the same feat at Sharjah Racecourse on Saturday.

Of the four Red Stables runners, Etijaah, owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, seems to hold the advantage after landing the equivalent race 12 months ago.
He was also victorious on his most recent racecourse appearance, at Al Ain Racecourse in March.

Stablemate Jeeraan, also from the powerful Sheikh Hamdan string, is another course and distance winner and has battled it out with Etijaah in the past. Jeeraan managed fifth to Etijaah at this meeting last term, but the tables were turned in December when Jeeraan beat Etijaah into fourth over course and distance.

Jockey Dane O’Neill, retained by Sheikh Hamdan, elects to ride Etijaah with Godolphin Mile-winning rider, Sam Hitchcott aboard Jeeraan. Long time stable jockey, Pat Dobbs partners Storm Belt.

Another of the Watson quartet to have won over track and trip, Storm Belt must concede weight to his nine rivals but takes a significant drop in class.

His final outing of last season was in Super Saturday’s Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 and on his previous run he chased home subsequent Dubai World Cup winner, California Chrome.
Zain Eagle is the trainer’s other runner who may need the run having not been seen since last December when behind Jeeraan.

He was fourth to Etijaah on this night last year and has UAE Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea in the saddle.

“Storm Belt has a lot of weight and will certainly come on for the run,” said Watson, who trains out of Red Stables in Al Quoz. “He seems very well as do all of mine.

“Etijaah is fresh and in great form. He showed last year he can run well off a break whereas Jeeraan improved markedly from his first start 12 months ago.

“Zain Eagle has had surgery since his last outing and can hopefully catch up for lost time but will improve with this run under his belt.

“We would have to hope they can all go well and at least be very competitive.”

Of Zain Eagle, O’Shea added: “I spent three great seasons riding a lot for Doug and he tells me this horse is in good shape so hopefully he can run well.”

However he fares in the Emirates Airline Handicap, O’Shea, looks to hold a leading chance on Mutahaddith in the 1200m Emirates.com Handicap for his main employer, Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. Mutahaddith and O’Shea won at Jebel Ali’s first meeting of the season last year before twice scoring over Meydan’s 1200m dirt track.

“He was Grandstand Stables’ first winner of last season and can hopefully repeat the feat this time,” said O’Shea. “The track and trip really suit him so, with his great draw in two, he should go very close.”

Watson introduces Indescribable to local action in the same race with Pat Dobbs in the saddle. Four times a winner in England, he has been off the racecourse since September 2015.

“He has been showing up nicely in his work,” said Watson. “We were not able to get him to the track last season when things just did not pan out.

“He is fit and raring to go. He seems to handle dirt at home but you never really know until they race on it.”

Zabeel Stables trainer, Satish Seemar and jockey, Richard Mullen celebrated a winner at Jebel Ali last Friday and combine here with Speedy Move, winner of his only UAE start - a 1200m handicap at Jebel Ali in March.

This looks a tougher assignment but he certainly cannot be ruled out, a comment that could also be applied to Press Room, Zabeel’s representative in the 2000m feature.

Twice victorious at Meydan in early 2015, including over 2000m, he has been absent since March 2015 but has a decent record when running fresh and the yard seem to be in good form.

Tickets for all race meetings at Meydan Racecourse are available via the Meydan Store https://store.meydan.ae/. Tickets may also be purchased on race day from the Meydan Ticket Sales Office located between Gates B and C.