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Faulkner Bids to Extend Unbeaten Record in Featured Longines Master Collection

Faces Rival Bids from Talented Stablemates, One Man Band and Ostaad

There may only be six runners in the featured 1600m handicap at Meydan on Thursday evening but it looks a cracker and a case can be made for each of the sextet.

Doug Watson looks to be in for a good night and saddles half of the runners with the returning Faulkner joined by One Man Band and Ostaad, both winners of their previous start.

However, Faulkner and Pat Dobbs look certain to be the centre of attention; unbeaten in his three career starts to date, all last season, as well as landing a trial at Meydan prior to that, he has not ben seen since winning a 1400m handicap in January at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

The horse he beat on that occasion, Tamarkuz, went on to win his next four starts, culminating in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night.

He does have a 329-day absence to overcome and must concede weight to his five rivals but he looked a genuinely exciting prospect when last seen.

The step up to 1600m should also really suit him.

Sam Hitchcott rides One Man Band, thrice a course and distance winner, including at the previous meeting two weeks ago.

Chris Hayes picks up the ride on Ostaad, a winner at Jebel Ali just under three weeks ago and twice a Meydan victor in the past.

“Obviously Ostaad and One Man Band have race fitness on their side,” said Watson. “Both seem in good form since their latest victories.

“Faulkner is a horse we always wanted to try over 1600m and, then perhaps, even further. He is going nicely and ready for a race but with the Carnival in mind further down the line.

“He is a horse we have always really liked.”

The Ali Rashid A Raihe duo of Lanark and Ehtedaam, who is returning from a long absence having shown useful form in England for Godolphin, merit plenty of respect with the yard in great form.

Ehtedaam chased home the aforementioned Tamarkuz when last seen in October 2013 and is making his local/dirt debut. Dane O’Neill rides for his main employer, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashd Al Maktoum, with Tadhg O’Shea aboard Lanark.

O’Shea’s mount beat Ostaad, at Jebel Ali, on his penultimate start, in March and has been off since finishing third in China in April.

However Cross Grain, representing the powerful Satish Seemar and Richard Mullen combination, looks the main danger to Faulkner.

A 1400m maiden winner at Meydan’s first meeting of last season, on his debut, he subsequently disappointed twice but, exactly 12 months after the winning start to his career, he won a handicap over the same 1400m course and distance.

That was a month ago with connections keen to give him time between his races.

“He won well first time last season but did not really go on from that,” said Mullen. “He clearly goes well fresh so, hopefully, the month between races will work in his favour.

“He won well last time but this looks a stronger race.”

The Purebred Arabians return to Meydan and nine have been declared for the 1600m Mazrat Al Ruwayah Prep, a race won last year by Bigg N Rich.

Trained for that success by Eric Lemartinel, Bigg N Rich was then second in the Mazrat Al Ruwayah itself before producing a career highlight performance by winning the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1, also over 1600m at Meydan.

With Lemartinel now employed by Al Asayl, Bigg N Rich has been switched to Ali Rashid Al Raihe and Tadhg O’Shea is looking forward to riding him again, having finished second on the horse in England back in 2012.

“He is as fit as we can get him at home,” said O’Shea. “He looks the class act in the race and has his optimum conditions so we have to be very hopeful.”

From his new base, Lemartinel saddles both RB Torch and Richlore with the latter, under Gerald Avranche, perhaps the main danger to Bigg N Rich.

That said, Richlore has been beaten three times over 1600m by Bigg N Rich, including when fourth in last season’s opening round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.