HH Sheikh Hamdan Quartet Tops Friday Jebel Ali Feature
Racing at Jebel Ali on Friday afternoon is highlighted by a competitive 1400m handicap, for which 13 have been declared, including four owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whose Shadwell Farm -the U.S. arm of his breeding empire- sponsors the race.
Champion trainer Doug Watson, whose 17 winners lead the current standings, saddles two of the Sheikh Hamdan runners. Stable jockey Pat Dobbs elects to ride local debutant Ejaaby, a 3-year-old who ran six times previously in Britain for trainer Roger Varian.
Ejaaby’s sole victory came in his seasonal debut in April on Tapeta at Wolverhampton after having finished fourth, then second, on his two outings as a juvenile. He followed his victory by finishing second and third on his next two outings before his lone disappointing run last out, when failing to beat any of 13 rivals in a Newmarket handicap in June.
Subsequently gelded, Ejaaby is making his UAE bow after a racecourse absence of 188 days, whereas stable companion Elronaq, the mount of Sam Hitchcott, was introduced to local action at Meydan three weeks ago.
Beaten a long way in said 1400m event, 4-year-old Elronaq has a mere 1200m Newmarket maiden victory as a juvenile to his name from 12 starts.
Watson said: “Ejaaby has been training well and is certainly ready for a race so this appeared the ideal starting point for him.
“Elronaq perhaps needed that first run at Meydan more than we thought he would, so hopefully (he) can build on that if taking to the Jebel Ali track.”
The owner’s other pair are both trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, with Mushaakis, three times a course and distance winner, the choice of stable jockey Tadhg O’Shea.
Victorious five times in total at Jebel Ali, most recently in March, Mushaakis will be having his third start of the campaign, whereas stable companion Tafaakhor is having just his second UAE outing after one run at Meydan last Thursday.
For the record, Sheikh Hamdan’s retained jockeys, Jim Crowley and Dane O’Neill, are not in action at the meeting. Crowley, who rode once at Abu Dhabi in November, is not here permanently yet, while O’Neill is suspended.
Racecourse patron, HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is doubly represented with Gopi Selvaratnam, who trains on the track, saddling two-time course and distance winner Gobooll, as well as Final Reckoning, who is having his first start for the yard.
Formerly with Charlie Appleby and Godolphin, for whom he won two of his five starts in 2016, Final Reckoning has been off the track for 482 days, but is the choice of stable jockey Oisin Murphy.
Selvaratnam said: “First Reckoning is a nice new horse in the yard, but likely to need this run after almost 500 days off.
“Gobooll is proven under these conditions and ran well over course and distance when second on his seasonal return four weeks ago. He is drawn 13, though, which is not ideal, even on the straight track.”
Silvestre de Sousa, crowned British Champion Jockey this summer for a second time with more than 200 winners to his name in 2017, is riding locally for the first time this season and has been confirmed as stable jockey for Ahmad bin Harmash. They combine with Pathway To Honour, who has yet to race on dirt, but was a winner at Abu Dhabi on Sunday when ridden by Connor Beasley. Beasley partners stable companion Ormindo, twice a course winner but over further.
“Sunday was Pathway To Honour’s first start for us and we are keen to try him on dirt,” bin Harmash said. “This is a good opportunity to do that, while Ormindo likes it at Jebel Ali, where he won last time he ran there in early January, but has not run since February.”
Further intrigue is added to the card by the presence of Godolphin runner Perfect Sense in the concluding 1600m maiden. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the son of Sepoy stayed on well when third in a 1200m Jebel Ali maiden last out, his UAE debut, and looks sure to go close under Pat Cosgrave on what will be just his sixth career start.