Meydan`s New Dirt Track Under starter`s Orders as 2014-15 Season Gets Underway

Credit: Dubai RacingClub/Andrew Watkins

Surface Given Thumbs-up Following Successful Racecourse Trial

Meydan Racecourse ushers in a new era tomorrow (Thursday) with the opening of its newly-installed dirt track for the first meeting of the 2014-15 Meydan racing season.

A racecourse trial was held at the new track on Tuesday evening, with horses successfully galloping over 1400m and 1600m under race conditions. Following the trial, Dubai Racing Club Executive Director - Racing, Frank Gabriel said: “We were very pleased with tonight’s trials. The feedback from trainers and jockeys has been positive and we are excited about the new season.

“This is an important season for us as we will stage the 20th running of the Dubai World Cup and we look forward to welcoming top international horses to compete on the surface during the Dubai World Cup Carnival and on Dubai World Cup day.”

There are 19 racedays to be contested before the season-ending Dubai World Cup day and the first of these is traditionally sponsored by long-time Meydan Pillar Partner, Emirates. The highlight of the six-race card is the Dh125,000 Emirates Airline Handicap over 1900m, for which eight have been declared, including the Doug Watson duo of Storm Belt and Henry Clay.

Watson, who won both the trial races at Meydan on Tuesday with the unexposed Faulkner and Dr Faustus, is in a positive frame of mind ahead of the 2014-15 season. “I was ecstatic to hear of the return to dirt,” said the US-born handler, a former multiple UAE Champion trainer. “It seems to ride really well and we have horses in the yard who should suit this surface.”

Both Storm Belt and Henry Clay already have three dirt wins to their credit and Storm Belt, the choice of Pat Dobbs, has the added benefit of having won first time out last season. Sam Hitchcott takes the ride on Henry Clay.

“I am looking forward to running them both,” said Watson. “They have both been working well and the surface should not be an issue as they work on dirt and both have won on dirt. They seem in great shape so we have to be hopeful of big efforts from both.”

The weights are headed by the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Tanfeeth, last seen finishing eighth in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday when he was beaten just over five lengths.

This represents a drop in class but he has to concede weight to his seven rivals and has yet to win on dirt, albeit after only four attempts at Jebel Ali where he has run creditably.

However, this 1900m is perhaps on the short side for him and Dane O’Neill’s mount appears to face a stiff task. Having said that, Al Muhairi’s runners are normally fit and ready first time out.

Satish Seemar saddles both Pisco Sour and Antinori, with stable jockey, Richard Mullen picking the latter and stable apprentice, Marc Monaghan on the former. Both are trying the dirt surface for the first time.

“They should both run well,” said Mullen. “They work on dirt every day and seem to handle it well. You never know until you race on it but I don’t think it will be a problem.

“It is a good race but hopefully we will be competitive.”

Mullen, who was one of the jockeys to trial on the new track, was very positive in his feedback.

“The trial went very well,” he said. “There didn’t seem to be much kick back at all. If you were behind horses at Nad Al Sheba you would certainly know about it, but there was much less of that today. The track rode a little slow but that is to be expected for a new track and we will see it quicken up with some watering and racing.”

Ennobled Friend looks an interesting contender for Ahmad bin Harmash with Adrie De Vries in the saddle. He could not have been more impressive winning his first dirt outing at Jebel Ali last season but was well beaten on his only subsequent outing.

The meeting concludes with a competitive Dh120,000 Emirates Airline Handicap over 1400m with 11 set to face the starter.

Ridha ben Attia will be saddling Alnashmy for the first time with the six-year-old reunited with former UAE Champion Jockey, Wayne Smith who won on the horse twice in 2012.

The second of those victories was on dirt at Jebel Ali and Smith said: “The trainer sounds hopeful and thinks the horse is going to run a big race. The surface should suit him and it will be nice to get back on him.”Watson is again double handed with Dobbs choosing Shamaal Nibras over Ostaad, the mount of Hitchcott and making his dirt debut.

“Again, both are pleasing us at home and we hope will run well,” said Watson. “Shamaal Nibras ran well at Jebel Ali twice last season and works well on the dirt at home. Ostaad also handles it nicely in the mornings and looks well weighted.”

Mullen has chosen Global City over Chord Chart who will be ridden by Monaghan. Both are making their debuts on dirt.

The 1750m dirt track runs inside the 2400m turf track. Designed by Joe King, who was responsible for designing the tracks when Meydan was first built, the new surface is comprised of 88 per cent sand and 12 per cent silt and clay.

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