Table Toppers Watson and Al Raihe Aim to Continue Winning Ways at Second Jebel Ali Meeting

Friday’s second Jebel Ali meeting of the new season is highlighted by a 1400m conditions contest for which seven have been declared, all making their seasonal debuts.

Doug Watson has made a flying start to the season, heading the trainers’ table early, along with Ali Rashid Al Raihe on five winners apiece.

Watson saddles Shamaal Nibras in the feature, a course and distance winner last year and promoted to second in February’s Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile upon the subsequent disqualification of Forjatt who crossed the line in first.

“He goes well fresh,” said Watson. “So the lack of a run is not a concern and he is in great form at home. He has a penalty so is giving weight to five rivals but we are hoping for a big run.”

Watson’s and second horse in the race, Jawhar is now a non-runner.

The race is sponsored by Shadwell, the UK arm of the breeding empire of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum who owns two of the septet.

His retained jockey, Dane O’Neill, elects to ride the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Mashaaref, winner of the equivalent race in 2013 but conceding weight to all six rivals on this occasion.

Al Raihe and new stable jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, who has six winners to his name already this season, combine with Need To Know. A course and distance winner in February 2014 and a 1600m Jebel Ali winner at the first meeting of last season, conditions should be ideal.

Dhruba Selvaratnam, who trains on the track for racecourse patron, HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, relies on Gobooll, twice a course and distance winner in February.

New stable jockey, Chris Hayes, who registered a double in his new role at the first Jebel Ali meeting a fortnight ago, takes the ride.

“He has been working nicely and clearly was progressive last season,” said Hayes. “He will improve with the run under his belt but should give a good account of himself in a competitive race.

Satish Seemar and Richard Mullen combine with Moonlight Dash, in receipt of weight from the other runners and returning from a 607-day absence but appear to have a major player in the main support race, a 1200m handicap.

They reintroduce Genius Step to racecourse action having been off the track since winning at Meydan, over 1200m, 53 weeks ago. He also won two of his four local starts the previous season, also over 1200m at the UAE’s flagship racecourse.

“He is a good horse but has not been the easiest to train,” said Mullen. “He has not run at Jebel Ali but, if he handles the track, should run a big race as he is in good form at home.”

Dangers are aplenty with five Jebel Ali winners among the eight declared. These include Sholaan, who heads the weights for Selvaratnam and Hayes but looks to face a stiff task conceding 2.5 kgs or more to his rivals.

“I really like Sholaan,” said Hayes. “We worked him after racing the first Friday and I was very pleased with him.”

Sholaan’s most recent of three local victories was at Jebel Ali over 1000m last November (50 weeks ago). On that occasion he was followed home by Kilt Rock, who is again in opposition, and has the benefit of a run this season.

Trained by Watson, he and Pat Dobbs chased home Hayes on Selvaratnam’s Morawij over 1000m at the first meeting and Dobbs maintains the partnership.

“We were delighted with his first run back,” said Watson. “He has improved fitness wise and we expect another big effort but it looks a strong handicap.

Watson’s charge is seeking a seventh UAE victory and has five Jebel Ali victories on his CV, three over this 1200m.