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Three Listed Contests Attract Quality Fields on Meydan`s Thursday Card

Group Winners Take to the Track Ahead of January 5 Carnival Launch

• Tickets available from Meydan Ticket Sales Office.
• First race 6:30pm

Muarrab, the $2m Dubai Golden Shaheen Champion, gets his title-defense season underway at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday evening with an appearance in the Listed Garhoud Sprint sponsored by Lincoln Continental.

That 1200m Golden Shaheen victory on Dubai World Cup night 2016 was the highlight of Muarrab’s impressive 13 career victories, 11 of which have been registered in the UAE since joining Musabbeh Al Mheiri at Oasis Stables.

The seven-year-old gelding’s winning portfolio also includes a Jebel Ali Sprint in 2015, as well as Super Saturday’s Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal last season over Thursday’s course and distance, as well landing The Garhoud Sprint 12 months ago.

One of three in the race sporting the colours of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he is the choice of the owner’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill, but is far from ideally drawn out wide in stall 11 of the 12 runners.

Muarrab, as a Group 1 winner also
carries an additional weight penalty.
“It is not a great draw and he carries a penalty,” said O’Neill. “However, he goes well fresh and is tactically versatile so, hopefully, we can overcome the draw and maintain my perfect record on him; I have ridden him twice in a race, winning both times.”

The only runner drawn wider than Muarrab is the same owner’s Ghaamer, trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi and the mount of stable jockey, Tadhg O’Shea.

“We are drawn next to the horse we all have to beat, Muarrab,” said O’Shea. “I won on Ghaamer on the first night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival in January and we think he will run well in a very good sprint.”

However they fare in that speed test, Al Rayhi and O’Shea will hope their Le Bernardin can emulate his victory of 12 months ago in the second of three Listed contests on the night, the Dubai Creek Mile, Sponsored by Lincoln MKZ.

Al Rayhi’s charge then followed up in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 on the same Dubai World Cup Carnival night on which Ghaamer won.

“He has a penalty which obviously makes things more difficult,” said O’Shea. “Unlike Ghaamer though, he has a good draw which hopefully we can utilise.

“He goes well fresh and is in great form at home so should run a big race.”

O’Neill is again aboard one of the main dangers in the race, Maftool who is owned by Sheikh Hamdan and trained by Al Mheiri.

Winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas last year for Godolphin, he made a winning start for his new trainer in a course and distance handicap in February before failing to land a blow in the Godolphin Mile.

“He is a very nice horse and, like Muarrab, goes well fresh,” said O’Neill. “The trainer is very happy with him and I hope he will be competitive in a good race.”

Maftool was chased home by Cool Cowboy in February last year but that runner reversed the form when third in the Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup day, having won Super Saturday’s Group 3 Burj Nahaar, also over 1600m, in the interim.

Trained by Doug Watson, Cool Cowboy, the mount of Pat Dobbs on Thursday, is back in opposition and should be ready for this engagement having had a start at Jebel Ali five weeks ago.

“Conditions suit him and he has thrived since his Jebel Ali run,” said Watson. “He has a penalty for his Super Saturday success but should be capable of at least going close.”

Watson and Dobbs also combine with one of the evening’s most interesting runners, Candy Boy, in The Entisar, Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors, over the same 2000m course and distance as the Dubai World Cup.

Watson’s charge has actually contested the Dubai World Cup, the UAE’s flagship event, in each of the last two seasons but has clearly been problematical to train and they remain his only two local outings.

Watson is also represented by both Storm Belt and Etijaah with a case arguable for the chances of all three.
“If I had to nominate one it would probably be Candy Boy,” said Watson.

Gold City, trained by Satish Seemar, has only one local win to his credit but has plenty of good efforts in defeat to his name, including chasing home Godolphin’s Frosted in last season’s Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2.

Runner-up to Le Bernardin in the Dubai Creek Mile last year, he and Richard Mullen could be the main danger to the Watson trio.

“He seldom runs a bad race,” said assistant trainer, Bhupat Seemar. “He has locked horns with some of the very top horses and performed well.

We are trying the 2000m with him and will plan ahead according to how he runs.”

If a cracking meeting needed any more intrigue it also features first runners of the current UAE campaign for both Godolphin and South African trainer, Mike de Kock.

Charlie Appleby saddles Footbridge in the Dubai Creek Mile and fellow Godolphin runner, Capezzano in The Lincoln MKT Trophy, a 1400m maiden in which his seven opponents include De Kock’s Mazeed.