Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club stages its penultimate meeting of 2018 on Sunday, officially highlighted by the Abu Dhabi Championship (PA Listed), but also featuring a quality 2400m handicap, the only Thoroughbred contest on the six race card and containing a handful of Dubai World Cup Carnival aspirants.
Heading the weights with an official handicap rating of 98 is Basateen, one of two genuine carnival horses trained by Doug Watson among the ten declarations. A Carnival winner over 2000m on the Meydan turf, he has arguably achieved more in defeat, probably most noticeably when fifth in this year’s Group 3 Singspiel Stakes. On that occasion, he was beaten 3½ lengths by Benbatl, subsequently a Group 1 winner three times and most recently beaten by the history-making Winx in the Cox Plate (G1)
Stable companion Empoli, a Group 1 winner way back in September 2014, scored for the first time since when successful in a 2200m Abu Dhabi handicap last November. He is the choice of Pat Dobbs, who rides him for just the second time since that victory in the capital almost 13 months ago. An 8-year-old gelding by Halling, he was then second in this corresponding race last year, but subsequently enjoyed little fortune in three carnival outings at Meydan or back at Abu Dhabi in the 2200m Abu Dhabi Championship (G3).
Watson said: “We have taken the headgear off Basateen, who threw away any chance with a slow start, at Abu Dhabi, over 1600m on his reappearance and only outing this season. He did well to finish as close as he did and will appreciate the longer trip and is in great form at home. Empoli showed last year he likes it at Abu Dhabi and is capable of running well fresh so we are hoping he can produce a big run but it does look a strong field.”
Sam Hitchcott partners Basateen for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum because Dane O’Neill, retained by the owner, has opted to ride Mudaarab for Erwan Charpy. A 4-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor, he won twice in England for Sir Michael Stoute, but is seeking a first local victory on his sixth UAE outing. A close fourth in a course and distance handicap in February, he was second on his final start of the last campaign at Jebel Ali in March, but well beaten at the same track on his only subsequent outing at the end of November. That 1800m Jebel Ali contest was won by Rio Tigre, trained by Sandeep Jadhav and joined in Sunday’s field by Interconnection, the horse Mudaarab chased home at Jebel Ali in March. Ben Curtis is aboard the latter, with stable jockey Royston Ffrench sticking with Listed winner Rio Tigre.
Another established Carnival performer is Farrier, to be ridden by Richard Mullen for his main employer Satish Seemar. A 10-year-old gelded son of Tapit, he actually made his debut a winning one at Meydan on the previous Tapeta surface as a 4-year-old in February 2012. He was then considered something of a Jebel Ali specialist, winning ‘up the hill’ on its all-weather surface four times, including the 2017 Jebel Ali Stakes (Listed) over the stamina sapping 1950m. That was in the February of 2017 and, coincidentally, exactly five years after his aforementioned winning debut, as well as just over 11 months after he was an excellent second in the Jebel Hatta (G1) behind Godolphin’s Tryster. Third in January’s Jebel Ali Mile (G3), he was virtually tailed off when last seen, seeking a second Jebel Ali Stakes (Listed) success at the end of February and has clearly not always been straightforward to train.
“He has been a wonderful horse to have in the yard,” Mullen said. “He owes nobody anything and has been a real testament to Satish and the whole team at Zabeel Stables. He seems in good form at home and it would be lovely to add a turf victory to his all-weather and dirt victories but it does look a hot race.”
Sixteen, the maximum number allowed, have been declared for the 1600m Abu Dhabi Championship (PA Listed) with trainer Eric Lemartinel appearing to hold a very strong hand in a contest restricted to 3-year-olds; his trio of runners are among the five to have already won.
Pat Cosgrave has chosen to ride RB Money To Burn, a facile winner of a 1400m maiden at Al Ain on her sole outing four weeks ago. She was chased home that day by stable companion Eghel De Pine; on that occasion the choice of Cosgrave. They then advertised the form in no uncertain terms with an easy 1400m victory at Abu Dhabi last Sunday, but Olivier Delouze rides him for His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
RB Money To Burn runs in the colours of Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan, as does Lemartinel’s third runner, RB Lam Tara. She won a maiden over Sunday’s course and distance on her only start, three weeks ago under Fabrice Veron, who is again in the saddle.
If the Al Asayl apple cart is to be upset the chances are there will be an Omani link, with Hadiyah offering strong claims if anywhere near as good as her official rating of 94 suggests. Trained by Said Al Badi for the Oman Royal Cavalry , she won her 1200m debut on the Muscat dirt in March before running twice at Newbury in England. She followed a second in a 1400m conditions race by finishing third, over the same course and distance, in the DIAR International Stakes (G3 PA). Back in Oman, she has had one outing this season, beaten a neck in a 1200m conditions race. Meanwhile, twice a Muscat winner from six starts, is Hakeemat Muscat. The Younis Al Kalbani trainee makes her first start since being beaten a neck over 1600m in the Oman capital in April.