Watson Has The Secret to Sharjah Success

Mukhabarat under Sam Hitchcott
Photo: Erika Rasmussen

Doug Watson Lands Feature Race Contest for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Sharjah are halfway through their season already after Saturday’s third fixture of the campaign, which was highlighted by a 2000m Purebred Arabian handicap, won in style by the Doug Watson-trained The Secret.
Owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whose retained jockey, Dane O’Neill was in the saddle, The Secret had won over the same course and distance a fortnight ago when he led right on the line.
There was no such drama this time with O’Neill jumping out in front and the pair stayed there. Always travelling well, O’Neill committed for home 500m from home and the race, as a contest, was over.
Having lost his maiden tag at the eighth attempt two weeks ago, he promptly doubled his career win tally.
“We have always believed he was a decent horse,” said Watson.
“He works like a much better horse than he was producing on the track until last time when he finally put his head in front.
“We hoped it would boost his confidence and this was a good performance. Hopefully, now he has these two wins, he can continue on the upgrade.
Watson went on to complete a double, courtesy of Mukhabarat, ridden by Sam Hitchcott and produced to lead well into the home straight in the only Thoroughbred contest, a 1700m handicap.
With several determined to lead early doors, Hello Morning set a scorching early gallop before crying enough 500m out, leaving Alraased with a seemingly unassailable lead.
However, he had chased the relentless pace and, with 200m left, was clearly toiling, and 100m out was passed by Mukhabarat who won going away.
Alraased actually lost second to Fa’Iz, another running on from the main pack.
The winner was having his first win on his fifth start locally, having won previously in the UK at Doncaster in 2013.
“The step up in trip has probably been the key,” said Watson.
“They went very quick and he was able to run through tiring horses which has suited him.
“Sam has given him a good ride.”
Eric Lemartinel and Tadhg O’Shea were both in good form at Al Ain on Friday and continued their winning ways with a double, beginning with the smooth victory of Alina in the opening 1200m maiden.
Sixth of nine, here at Sharjah over 1000m on debut, Lemartinel put blinkers on her this time and she showed a reasonable turn of foot to burst clear just after halfway.
Ridden out by O’Shea in the final 300m, she always looked in control to give her jockey a fourth and trainer a third success in under 24 hours.
“She is still very much learning about the game,” said O’Shea. “We decided to put the blinkers on and it has worked here. She can hopefully progress again with experience.”
Later on the card stable companion, Smalah showed a very likeable attitude to grind out a victory in the 1200m maiden.
Having her fourth start she outbattled Ya’Boob W’Rsan to record her first victory at the fourth attempt.
Having been noted staying on well in a 1700m maiden last week, the extra 300m really suited her and, having led after 300m she was briefly headed by the runner-up 400m out.
The lead was vanquished for only a matter of strides though as she regained the initiative from Ya’Boob W’Rsan and always looked likely to hold him off.
“She has stayed the trip well and fought back when challenged,” said O’Shea. “It was a pleasing performance and nice to get a win into her.”
“I am very lucky to be riding for two connections and it has been a productive two days.
At halfway in a second 1200m maiden, the Abdullah Al Hammadi-trained Rabbah Al Reef appeared an unlikely winner.
However, frantically urged on by Fernando Jara, he made relentless progress in the final 300m to lead close home and grab a dramatic victory.
“He was outpaced and inexperienced early on,” said Jara. “However, when he understood what was required he picked up and ran on very well.
“He should have learned a lot and will stay further so may have more to offer.”
The meeting concluded with a 1700m handicap and Champion Jockey Richard Mullen was seen at his strongest to force the Elise Jeanne-trained MH Areeb, who did not look the most resolute, to lead where it mattered.
They hit the front halfway up the straight to deny Sheikh Zayed, Lemartinel and O’Shea a treble with Bedayer Al Asayl.