News

Jebel Ali Hosts First Meeting of New UAE Racing Season

Sheikh Hamdan`s Sprinters Take Centre Stage

Racing returns to the UAE on Friday with a competitive six-race card at Jebel Ali, highlighted by a number of sprint specialists who contest a cracking 1000m handicap.

Half of the eight-strong field is owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum who also sponsors the race through Shadwell, the UK arm of his worldwide breeding empire. Dane O’Neill, retained by the owner, elects to ride Fityaan.

Trained by Musabah Al Muhairi, O’Neill’s choice was second in the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint over the same course and distance in both 2012 and 2014. He has yet to win on dirt.

“It’s never easy to choose in these situations but Fityaan goes well at Jebel Ali and has been pleasing his trainer at home,” said O’Neill.

The same owner’s Kanaf, also trained by Al Muhairi, has five Jebel Ali victories to his name, four achieved last season. He has not won over this 1000m minimum trip since April 2010. Kanaf will be ridden by apprentice, George Buckell who is making his UAE debut and has five rides on the card.

Sheikh Hamdan also owns Mujaazef, winner of this equivalent race in 2011. The mount of local apprentice, Saeed al Mazrouei he is trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe as is Sheikh Hamdan’s fourth runner, Ribaat, the mount of stable jockey, Royston Ffrench.

The weights are headed by Roicead, trained on the track by Dhruba Selvaratnam. Roicead was the ultra-impressive winner of a 1200m handicap at Jebel Ali’s final meeting last season. He will be ridden by new stable jockey, Oisin Murphy who is set to be crowned Champion Apprentice in the UK, though his trainer sounds hopeful rather than confident.

“He has a lot of weight and is giving weight to some good horses who go very well here at Jebel Ali. He will certainly improve for the run but is fit and well,” said Selvaratnam.

Among his victims in March were the aforementioned Fityaan and Mujaazef, as well as the re-opposing Kilt Rock, who chased him home that day. Trained by Doug Watson and another well proven at Jebel Ali, Kilt Rock will be seeking a sixth course win yet connections feel he will improve for the run.

He is owned by EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club) and their spokesman, Justin Byrne, said: “He has been working well enough but does tend to improve a lot from his first run. He has good form at Jebel Ali and plenty of pace so conditions are not an issue but we do feel he will progress a lot from this first run of the season.”

Satish Seemar introduces an interesting new recruit in the same race. Zalzilah, winner of three of his twelve starts for James Tate in England, receives weight from all bar one of his rivals and will be ridden by Richard Mullen who said: “He is a nice new addition to the yard. Hopefully he will run well but we are going to find out a lot about him on Friday.”

A maiden and four other handicaps complete the first card of the season. Jebel Ali`s Pick Six players would appear to face a stiff task on Friday.