Watson Hoping Polar River Goes With the Flow on Seasonal Conditions Debut

Polar River
Photo: Cedric Lane

“She is the one we are really looking forward to this season” – Trainer Doug Watson.

UAE Oaks and 1000 Guineas heroine, Polar River is set to make her return to Meydan Racecourse on Thursday for the first time since landing the runner-up spot in the Group 2 UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup day 2016.

She takes on the boys once again in the featured ten-runner Gulf News Conditions race over 1600m.

Still unraced 12 months ago, the filly made a stunning racecourse debut when, then a juvenile, she trounced 11 rivals, all bar one her elders, in a 1200m maiden in early December.

The Doug Watson-trained three-year-old she began 2016 by winning the 1400m UAE 1000 Guineas Trial before taking the first fillies’ classic over 1600m.

That Listed success, clinched by an ever expanding 13 lengths, was followed by victory in the Group 3 UAE Oaks over 1900m after which she started hot favourite for the Group 2 UAE Derby, over the same course and distance.

An unlucky second in that Dubai World Cup night feature, Watson shelved plans to follow the Japanese race winner, Lani in a US campaign so she could enjoy a restful summer in the UAE.

She has clearly been pleasing her trainer who is looking forward to getting her back on the track but she does find herself in the unusual position of, as a three-year-old filly, having to concede weight to older males.

“She is a lovely filly and was a real star last season,” said Watson. “Her work has been very good and she is, basically, ready for a race. She has a lot of weight to carry but her early season options are limited and this looked the ideal start point.
“She is one we are really looking forward to this season.”

The US handler also saddles Grand Argentier who looks one of the main dangers under Sam Hitchcott with stable jockey Pat Dobbs opting to ride Polar River.

A course and distance winner in February under Hitchcott, Watson’s second runner looked a natural on the Meydan dirt surface in his first UAE season.

“Like Polar River, Grand Argentier is pleasing us at home and this looked the race to get him back in racecourse action. He has done well over the summer and should run a big race.”

The main opposition could come from Top Clearance, another to have won over track and trip, in his case in late January.

His trainer, Dhruba Selvaratnam, is seeking his first winner of the season and, with stable jockey, Chris Hayes injured, has booked Irish Champion Jockey Pat Smullen for both his Meydan runners this weekend.

A former stable jockey for Selvaratnam, Smullen rode the trainer’s Market Rally to victory in last season’s Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday when Hayes was suspended.

He also rode Top Clearance when a well beaten sixth in the Burj Nahaar on the same Super Saturday card.

Selvaratnam said: “My horses have been needing their first run thus far this season so I expect Top Clearance will also need it. He has been gelded since last season but is working well.

“He will certainly improve for the run and can hopefully have a good season.”

Richard Mullen is an eye-catching jockey booking by Ahmad bin Harmash for Ennobled Friend and he could be the best of the rest in a race that surely revolves around Polar River.