Racing at Meydan on Saturday was highlighted by a night of thrilling finishes, including in the evening’s two turf races—one over the sprint distance of 1400m and the other over the testing 2400m. In the former, Race 5 (Al Naboodah Construction Group Handicap), Rocket Power was able to record a fourth consecutive victory this season, having won his three previous outings at Jebel Ali. He was chased home by stable companion Azraff. Owned by Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, who also owns third-placed Billingsgate, he was ridden by Connor Beasley for conditioner Ahmad bin Harmash.
Rocket Power (GB) and Connor Beasley winning the Al Naboodah Construction Group Handicap, picture Dubai Racing Club /Erika Rasmussen
Said trainer and jockey completed a double in the second turf fixture, the seventh and final race, when Mansoor Al Mansoori’s Muqaatil won by the slightest of noses over a super-game Doublet and Mickael Barzalona for trainer Sandeep Jadhav. The double put the cherry on top of a season that has been sprinkled with superb efforts from the yard.
Bin Harmash said: “We decided to come here over 1400m on the turf because (Rocket Power) was not rated highly enough for the Jebel Ali Mile, so we now know he is as good on the Meydan grass. The Jebel Ali Mile is next week, so we will have to see how the handicapper reacts and how the horse is after this race. If not, we will find something back here on turf at Meydan in the Dubai World Cup Carnival. The horse is in such great form at the moment and, on the whole, all ours have been running well throughout the season.”
Al Basti was completing a double after, earlier, Tadhg O’Shea and Argentina-bred J B Space dominated the opening 1900m dirt maiden, the Al Naboodah Trade School by 10 lengths. Saddled by Satish Seemar, the 4-year-old gelded son of J Be K was having his sixth career start, but first over a trip further than 1400m and the extra distance clearly suited him.
O’Shea explained: “I rode him last time at Al Ain over 1400m and they were always going too quick for him that day, but the plan had always been to step up in trip. Satish did try to run him here at Meydan over 2000m in December, but he broke out the stalls and was withdrawn. It probably was not a great race, but he won it well and that will certainly do his confidence a lot of good.”
The Al Naboodah Civil Engineering, the better of two 1600m dirt handicaps, was won in style by Moqarrar, a first Meydan winner of the campaign for Erwan Charpy. Ridden by Dane O’Neill, riding for his main employer, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the well-made son of Exchange Rate out of a Distorted Humor mare ran to his dirt-friendly pedigree with aplomb, taking the lead early and winning well. It was his second start in the UAE after winning one of seven with Sir Michael Stoute in England.
“We thought he would need that first run, so started him on the turf two weeks and that put him spot-on for this,” Charpy said. “Drawn one was ideal because he breaks very well from the stalls and his pedigree suggested the dirt would suit and his best form in England was on the all-weather. We will probably keep him in handicap company for now, but hopefully he is going to be a nice horse for us.”
A 1200m dirt handicap, the Al Naboodah Building, provided the perfect opportunity for Nine Below Zero to make a winning dirt and local debut, as well as opening the seasonal account of trainer Fawzi Nass and owners Al-Afoo Racing Stable. Only six went to post with Adrie de Vries settling the 4-year-old Showcasing gelding in third, allowing Pirate’s Cove and Beachcomber Bay to set a generous gallop. Sweeping past said rivals and going clear in the closing stages, the winner finished up much the best, winning for the fourth time. The 4-year-old bay gelding was previously trained in England by David Simcock.
Nass said: “He has always worked well on dirt, but you never know how they will handle it in a race, so we are delighted with that. That now means we should be able to run him in the Dubai World Cup Carnival next time, which is great for everyone concerned with the horse.”
The longest dirt race on the card, a 2200m handicap, the Trans Gulf Electro-Mechanical, was a thriller with Big Brown Bear and Quartier Francais locked together throughout the final 300m and ultimately sprinting 16½ lengths clear of eventual third Cachao. Big Brown Bear lived up to his name, mauling his way back after being headed by Quartier Francais and ultimately getting his head in front at the wire. Pat Dobbs was in the saddle for Doug Watson, providing the team its first of two wins on the night.
“We were not sure if he would stay the 2200m, but this looked a good opportunity to try it,” Watson said. “He is still very inexperienced and I am delighted with the way he has battled against a very tough horse who stays well. He is still improving and we will have to see what the handicapper does, but I imagine, we will drop him back to 1900m or 2000m.”
Team Watson-Dobbs’ other victory came in the night’s sixth race, the other 1600m handicap (Al Naboodah National Plant) where Dale Brennan’s Illusional ran down a reluctant Robin Weathers to win by a half-length. The full-brother to 2012 UAE 1000 Guineas winner Gamilati provided his owner with his first winner in the UAE.
Brennan said: “He obviously liked Meydan the first time, but definitely did not take to Jebel Ali so we will keep him here. We have three in training at the moment and my other horse to have run, Pouvoir Magique, was a good fourth on his only start for us so far. Hopefully, he can win next time.”