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Udabaa looks to return to winning form in Abu Dhabi featured thoroughbred event

The Thoroughbreds take centre stage at Abu Dhabi on Sunday with 11 declared for a 2400m handicap, the final event on the six race card and the only non Purebred Arabian contest.

Last year’s winner Udabaa, trained by Doug Watson for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, will attempt to win the race for a second year running.

One of four in the race owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he is the choice of the owner’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill.

He has not won since landing this event 12 months ago but should be spot on for his repeat bid having already had two starts this season and with the Watson teams success thus far.

When landing this race last year, Udabaa was recording a second consecutive Abu Dhabi victory having won a 2200m handicap on his previous outing.

Watson also saddles the same owner’s Mujrayaat, fifth when his stable companion won that 2200m contest. The mount of stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, he too is having his third start of the campaign.

Dr Faustus, a third runner for the American handler and seventh in last year’s renewal, was second in the same race in 2012 and is another with two previous starts this season.

“The horses have been running really well all season,” said Watson. “Abu Dhabi really suits Udabaa and he is back on the same mark as when he won this race last year. Things did not really go to plan for him last time and we hope he can bounce back. He has a much better draw this time and is probably our best chance.

“Hopefully, Dr Faustus and Mujrayaat also have live chances in a competitive race.”

The 2200m contest won by Udabaa last year was landed this term by Ukrainian when the re-opposing Antinori (2nd), Dr Faustus (3rd), Burdlaz (4th), Mujrayaat (5th).Malekov (6th) and Udabaa (11th) were all in arrears.

Trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe and again the mount of stable jockey, Royston Ffrench, clearly relished the return to turf on that occasion after three dirt outings previously this season.

Stable companion, Yaseer to be ridden by stable apprentice, Saeed Al Mazrouei, was second in the 2012 Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship when trained by Erwan Charpy. He did not seem to handle the dirt at Meydan Racecourse last week on his first outing in over a year.

In 2011, subsequent dual Jebel Ali Stakes winner, Treble Jig, made a winning local debut in the equivalent race for Musabah Al Muhairi and the trainer relies on Tanfeeth this year.

Runner-up in this contest 12 months ago, he too is owned by Sheikh Hamdan but has been overlooked by O’Neill, leaving stable jockey, Silvestre De Sousa, to take the ride.

Yarroom, to be ridden by Oisin Murphy for his main local employer Dhruba Selvaratnam, looks likely to appreciate the return to turf, while local debutant, Vaasa, cannot be ignored in a wide open race.

Wayne Smith rides for trainer Ahmad bin Harmash who saddled his first winner of the campaign on Friday – ridden by Smith.

The best of the Purebred Arabian action is a 1600m handicap which would appear to revolve around the Ernst Oertel-trained pair Molahen El Alhan, the choice of Tadgh O’Shea and Daniel Muscutt’s mount, Munzade.

Should they fail to fire, Ragdan, to be ridden by Richard Mullen for Jaber Bittar, could be the one to benefit.