Racing at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday, a matinee meeting with a 4pm start time, was highlighted by a 1200m turf handicap –the Al Naboodah Electrical– contested by a competitive field of 15 and won impressively by Ejaaby.
Trained by local champion Doug Watson and one of no less than seven in the race for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ejaaby was the choice of the owner’s second stable jockey Dane O’Neill, with the first jockey Jim Crowley opting to partner Mukhmal, who finished 12th for Erwan Charpy. Slowly away, Ejaaby eased into contention by halfway before quickening impressively to lead 300m out and running on strongly to win stylishly by a measured neck.
O’Neill, completing a double on the card, said: “In the end, everything has worked out well, but he idled a bit at the start and then lugged left at one stage. If you look at his English form, he has done that before, so I was not overly surprised.
“Ideally, we would have had something to race with in the early stages but he was going quicker than those around him so we did not,” O’Neill continued. “Over the last few weeks, this horse has been getting noticeably quicker in his work at home so we were hoping for a big run tonight and he has not disappointed.”
Ejaaby (Doug Watson – Dane O’Neill) wins the Al Naboodah Electrical Handicap, picture Dubai Racing Club and Andrew Watkins
The meeting opened with the Al Naboodah Cargo, a 1900m dirt maiden, where Ali Rashid Al Rayhi-trained Mearswas able to open his account in his 12th attempt. Ridden confidently by Tadhg O’Shea, he was settled just behind the early pace, dictated by Cranesbill, before he swept past that rival at the top of the straight and never looked likely to be caught. Cranesbill finished third.
“Obviously I missed Thursday here at Meydan and a winner on Janszoon when I was suspended, but I am back now and raring to go,” O’Shea said. “We had a perfect draw in three and I was able to get a lovely lead into the race and then he picked up really well. He actually jumped a shadow about a furlong out so I think he had a bit left.
O’Shea continued: “Ali and his team have the horses in great form and finally this horse has put his head in front which is great for his owner, Jumaa Mubarak Al Junaibi, who is a big supporter of the yard.”
The Al Naboodah Goodyear, a 1200m dirt handicap, was run at a furious gallop with at least four of the 13 runners seeming to want to lead, but it was Pirate’s Cove, trained by Salem bin Ghadayer and ridden by Mickael Barzalona, who dominated throughout. Drawn in four, he was soon in front and kicked clear just after halfway, recording a second career victory on his 12th start.
Barzalona said: “I was actually able to get to the lead quite easily whereas, last time, we had to work hard to get a positive position and he weakened. Once on that rail and out in front he was always travelling very strongly but those tactics really suit him; he is a very sharp type, but then once in the straight, he has stayed on strongly all the way to the line.”
Trainer bin Ghadayer completed a double when Xavier Ziani and Aslan led for the vast majority of the Al Naboodah Travel, a 2200m dirt handicap, to register a third win this season for the horse who has also won twice at Jebel Ali during this campaign. Carrying the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd Al Maktoum, Aslan must hold a special place in his trainer’s heart because he was also his very first ever winner, in a 1900 Meydan dirt maiden at the end of January 2015.
Ziani said: “He is a very tough horse and once he gets out in front, (he) is a very hard to get past as he has shown again here. The yard are in great form at the moment and we are enjoying a very good run. Long may it continue.”
Like Bin Ghadayer, Kuwaiti Rashed Bouresly is another trainer whose horses are running well. He saddled Waqqad, who was victorious in a 1400m turf maiden restricted to three-year-olds –the Al Naboodah Group Enterprises – Automotive– in what was his second career start. Second on his debut, when staying on strongly over 1000m at Jebel Ali just last Friday, he was again not the fastest away but, seemingly, always going nicely enough for O’Neill, initiating his brace. In midfield at halfway, the pair suddenly loomed as big dangers 600m out and hit the front soon after before running on relentlessly and, ultimately, winning in style.
O’Neill said: “He ran well at Jebel Ali on that one previous start when, as always over 1000m, they went fast and hard. He is a big horse who takes a while to get into stride so did very well to finish second there. This longer trip has certainly been in his favour, as he still took probably three furlongs to get organised, and the switch to dirt did not faze him. He is a nice, big horse with I would think plenty of scope and capable of improving with time.”
The Harley-Davidson Northern Emirates, a 2000m dirt handicap, was contested by the maximum field of 16 but, in all reality, very few ever looked likely winners. State Law, trained by Doug Watson, hit the front 800m out under apprentice Josh Quinn and looked to have the race in safe keeping until Murrayfield, a former stable companion, loomed large under Liam Tarentaal. They hit the front with less than 300m to run and powered home to win well.
Like Waqqad, trained by Bouresly, who also celebrated a double on this card last year, he was coming here after three good runs in defeat this season and was actually losing his maiden tag at the ninth attempt.
Apprentice Tarentaal, riding his first UAE winner on his 28th local mount, said: “It is actually the third time I have ridden this horse and the first time was over 1200m, the second over 1700m and the further he has gone, the better he has run. I told Mr Bouresly the 2000m would really suit him and, luckily, I was right, so a big thank you to the trainer for the chance and his faith in my opinion.”
The finale, a 1600m turf handicap, the Al Naboodah Ashok Leyland, was won by bin Ghadayer-trained Mailshot, completing a treble on the evening for the trainer. The son of Hard Spun closed quickly from well back, defeating Above Normal by three-quarters of a length at the wire under Mickael Barzalona.