Meydan snares Cowell

Sitting on the patio of the Meydan Hotel, enjoying a cup of tea in the sunshine while watching some horses canter by, English trainer Robert Cowell freely admits that there is no other place in the world where he would like to be right now.

In a few hours he will saddle Monsieur Joe in the Longines Column Wheel Chronograph at Meydan, which is opening tonight for the 2012 Dubai World Cup Carnival and he says: “I started coming here in 2005 with a filly that I had bought for John Greetham and she won. I don’t know how or why, but Eddie Ahern rode her on the old Nad Al Sheba track. And I was hooked. Hook, line and sinker, I was absolutely hooked and since then I have always tried to bring something back. We have skipped a few years, as I didn’t have anything good enough, but for the last years we have been lucky to have some good horses and so we were able to come.”

Cowell enjoyed one of the most successful seasons of his young training career in 2011 when his sprinter Prohibit won the Group One King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Prohibit is on his third visit to Dubai. Last February, he won the Dubal Trophy, a Carnival handicap under Christophe Soumillon, before finishing fifth in the then Group Two Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup Night with Frankie Dettori a month later.

The best jockeys in the world regularly meet up for the Carnival and Cowell explains: “There are many jockeys in Dubai and it is an interesting question when it comes to choosing your jockey. Now for Prohibit in particular, I would always fly Jim Crowley over as he built up a good reputation with him. I would fly him over here if he were involved, but other than that there are plenty of good jockeys out here. Everyone wants to win these races. There is no one sitting at the back giving them an easy run. Everything is trying as the prize-money is fantastic. And we all want to win out here, so all the jockeys are as hungry as each other and there is a good selection.”

On opening night, Epsom Derby winning French jockey Mickael Barzalona, who enjoyed a particularly successful Dubai World Cup Carnival in 2011, will be on Monsieur Joe. “An English jockey would be the logical option or a foreign jockey who is successful here,” continues Cowell. “I still think that on a lot of these tracks you need to have ridden on it plenty of times to understand it and to understand the pace of a race and when to go for home. And every track is ridden differently. Doesn’t matter where it is in the world, each country has a different style of running. Mickael has ridden here plenty, which is one of the reasons we chose him. Obviously the weight was an issue, so hopefully he will ride the horse with plenty of confidence.”

Monsieur Joe has only just joined Robert Cowell’s yard in England and he concludes: “When I chose a horse for Dubai I look at the profile of the horse. For me I would bring an older horse that is proven at a certain level, rather than a horse that is younger and on an upward curve. Monsieur Joe only joined us at the beginning of October 2011 and then had a little holiday in the paddock with Prohibit. Both came in to full training to prepare for the Carnival. It will be his first start for me and we shall see, but there is no doubt that he will come on from tonight’s race.”

Cowell jumps up and concludes: “I’m excited to be here. This is a big event. Not only is the prizemoney fantastic, but it is also great for the reputation. The [Dubai] World Cup is beamed to hundreds of countries. It is exposure every trainer wants. So to have a horse running in the Carnival or even better on Dubai World Cup is a chance that is really quite exciting. I just love it.”

And with that, he leaves; unable to sit still a minute longer, such is the anticipation in view of tonight’s opening of the Dubai World Cup Carnival.