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Meydan Racecourse Preview

Runners Take to the Track for First Meeting of 2015-16 Season

Meydan Racecourse opens its gates to the new racing season tomorrow (Thursday) and welcomes a host of familiar faces as well as some interesting new additions to the 2015-16 line-up.

The traditional Emirates-sponsored opening meeting gets the season underway with a six-race all-Thoroughbred card on the Meydan dirt track.

UAE Champion Trainer, Musabah Al Muhairi has made what could turn out to be one of the most interesting appointments of the new term. The 2007 Dubai World Cup-winning jockey, Fernando Jara is set for a new job at Al Muhairi’s Oasis Stables.

The US-based Panamanian rider spent a season as stable jockey for Doug Watson following his emphatic victory on Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Invasor. Jara rose to prominence in 2006 when he rode the same owner’s Jazil to Belmont Stakes triumph when just 18 years old. He then took the US by storm, claiming nine more major US titles that season including the Breeder’s Cup Classic and the Donn Handicap aboard Invasor, before heading to the UAE for the first time.

He was set to join Al Muhairi’s Oasis Stables last season but a paperwork glitch prevented him from traveling.

Brazilian rider and current British Champion Jockey, Silvestre de Sousa was on hand to step into the breach but with De Sousa now focusing on riding in the US, Al Muhairi needed a replacement for the 2015-16 UAE season.

The trainer once again made efforts to recruit Jara this season and is expecting him to arrive in time for Abu Dhabi Racecourse’s Sunday meeting, while established UAE riders, Royston Ffrench and Jesus Rosales are booked for the Oasis runners at Meydan this Thursday.

“We have a dirt track now and I like the American style of riding, so it makes sense” said Al Muhairi. “I knew him from when he rode out here before and I always thought well of him. They have some US riders in Saudi Arabia and I asked them if they knew whether anyone was available and they mentioned Fernando.”

Al Muhairi, who gained his trainer’s license in 1982, was crowned UAE champion trainer for the first time at the end of last season.

“It was a very good moment,” he said. “Everyone was working very hard and for many years we had tried to win this title and finished second or third. It was a great team effort that finally secured the championship for us and we hope we can go on into the new season in the same form.”

Trainer Erwan Charpy has also made a new jockey appointment. Welshman David Probert is set to ride for Green Stables in place of the apprentice Noel Garbutt.

“I was looking for a jockey this season,” said Charpy. “I’d been looking at Martin Lane but David Simcock was not too keen. David Probert is an [Andrew] Balding boy and a solid jockey and we look forward to working with him this season.”

And it looks like Probert is walking into a yard in form. Charpy landed the US$1m Purebred Arabian Dubai Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup day last season and is one win for one run this term following Jebel Ali’s season-opener last Friday.

Runners from both Oasis and Green Stables are in action during Thursday’s feature race.

The 2000m Emirates A380 Handicap is worth AED170,000 and has attracted a field of nine.

Charpy and jockey, Wayne Smith combined with Amaan to win at Jebel Ali last week for Sheikh Hamdan and the trio combine again, this time with Zamaam, having his first run on dirt.

Special Fighter will be ridden by Rosales for Al Muhairi who will be hoping his charge can win at the first time of asking on dirt. It will only be his third run for the yard and he was a winner when last seen on turf in China in early April.

The three runners from the yard of Red Stables trainer, Doug Watson look a big danger. Watson saddled first and second in the featured 1900m handicap on the same night last year and the American has a strong hand this time.

His trio are arguably headed by Jeeraan and Etijaah, both owned by Sheikh Hamdan whose retained jockey, Dane O’Neill, elects to ride the former.

Sam Hitchcott partners Etijaah, a course and distance winner in February.

“Jeeraan is in great shape and going very nicely at home,” said Watson. “He has enjoyed a great preparation and has had a clear run into the race. He should run well.

“Etijaah is slightly wrong at the weights but he loves the track and has a lovely low weight. Hopefully he can be competitive also.”

Watson also saddles Zain Eagle, making his debut for the yard and the mount of stable jockey, Pat Dobbs.

“He has been handling the dirt well at home in his work,” added Watson. “Obviously a race is a different matter and it will be interesting to see how he gets on as he struggled on the surface on his one previous effort last season.

“He is a nice new horse in the yard and if he handles the surface it will give us plenty of extra options.”

Also having his first start for a new trainer is Paene Magnus, now trained by Ahmed bin Harmash and who concedes weight to his eight rivals having shown very useful form when trained by his breeder, Jim Bolger.

A dual Listed winner on the all-weather at Dundalk in his pomp, he was well beaten twice in handicaps on the Meydan turf during the 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival. He bounced back to winning ways, again at Dundalk, in March of this year and if handling this dirt surface could run well under Freddie Tylicki.

With Satish Seemar not represented in the race, his stable jockey, UAE Champion, Richard Mullen, takes the spare ride on Submariner for Abdulla bin Huzaim. He has not won since December 2011 but has seen little racecourse action in the last two years and does have a victory on dirt, at Jebel Ali, to his credit.

The field is completed by the Salem bin Ghadyer duo of Torchlighter, the mount of Royston Ffrench and Hunters Creek, to be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea and neither can be dismissed in a very open looking contest befitting of the prize money.

Seemar may not have a challenger in the big race but he has won the maiden on the opening night four times in the last five years. The first race on the card and over 1400m, (was over 1200m in 2011), he relies on Sky Jockey who looks the one to beat with Mullen in the saddle.

Two handicaps, one over 1200m, the other over 1600m, are vying for the status of main support race and both have attracted strong fields.

The almost-white Tamaathul, trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe for Sheikh Hamdan, can lay claim to be being one of the most popular horses in training in the UAE and takes his chance in the 1200m race.

Stable jockey, O’Shea rides with the owner’s jockey, O’Neill preferring to partner Ajraam for Musabah Al Muhairi.

In the 1600m contest, Watson’s One Man Band, a dual course and distance winner last season as well as winning a 1900m maiden, will be hoping to make it four Meydan wins on his seventh course start.

Racecards can be viewed on www.emiratesracing.com.

Admission is free to the public areas of Meydan Racecourse, gates open at 5.30pm and the first race starts at 7pm. For further details and hospitality ticket packages please contact: +971 4327 2110 or ticketoffice@dubairacingclub.com or click www.dubairacingclub.com.