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The Secret Could Have Key to Sharjah Success

Top Weight Bidding for Third Consecutive Win on Saturday

Visitors to Sharjah Racecourse will have to wait until the last race to see the most valuable contest of the afternoon, a 1700m handicap where the weights are headed by Doug Watson’s The Secret.

The maximum field of 16 have been declared and The Secret is one of two in the race for trainer Doug Watson and owner HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Without a win in his first seven outings, The Secret has been successful in both his most recent starts, here at Sharjah over 2000m.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the owner’s retained jockey Dane O’Neill maintains the partnership having been aboard for both his recent wins.

O’Neill’s choice leaves stable jockey Pat Dobbs to ride the same owner’s Fantastique MHF, something of a standing dish at Sharjah where he has recorded all five career victories.

Three of those wins were over this 1700m, though he has proven his versatility by also winning a 1200m dash and a 2700m Sharjah Marathon.

“We always thought The Secret was pretty useful,” said Watson. “His work in the mornings was a lot better than he was producing on the track so it was nice to see him get his head in front.

“He was then far more impressive last time and, hopefully, can keep showing improved form.

“The drop in trip should not be a problem.

“Fantastique MHF ran very well when second on his one start so far this season, over Saturday’s course and distance. He should run another good race and, hopefully, both will go close.”

Major will be just a fifth runner of the season for Tony Manuel having finished a distant fourth to The Secret on his seasonal debut.

He looked in need of that run and should at least get closer this time. Wayne Smith rides.

“I won on him last season at Abu Dhabi,” said Smith. “He does only have that one win to his name but has run some decent races in defeat and seems to handle the dirt fine.”

Smalah, who will be having her third start of the campaign, won a 2000m Sharjah maiden most recently and looks sure to go well with Tadhg O’Shea riding for Eric Lemartinel.

Stable companion, Bedayer Al Asayl, the mount of Gerald Avranche, was a good second over course and distance on her last start.

However, she may struggle to reverse form with her conqueror on that occasion, MH Areeb, to be ridden by Richard Mullen for Elise Jeanne.

The only Thoroughbred race on the card is a 2000m handicap and, again, Watson appears to have two live chances.

Dobbs rides Hawker who will be having his second start locally having shown plenty of promise at Meydan on his UAE debut.

Stablemate Mukhabarat was impressive when winning a 1700m course handicap on his most recent start but appears to have been done few favours by the handicapper as a result. Sam Hitchcott, in the saddle for that victory, keeps the ride.

“We were pleased with Hawker’s first run for us,” said Watson. “Hopefully he can build on that and be very competitive.

“Mukhabarat was a revelation last time and appreciated a step up in trip so, the extra distance here, should not be a problem.”