Jebel Ali stage their first meeting of 2019 on Friday afternoon, a seven-race card officially highlighted by a 1000m conditions race that is restricted to 3-year-old's. Thirteen have declared, of whom only the penalised Eyelool has won. Trained on the Jebel Ali track for racecourse patron His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum by Nicholas Bachalard, the gelded son of Dragon Pulse will be making his local debut, having won two of his five starts in Britain for William Haggas. Victorious over 1400m, in a maiden on turf at Epsom in July, he bade farewell to the UK by winning a 1600m nursery handicap on the Kempton all-weather in September and is running over the minimum trip for the first time.
However, stable jockey Chris Hayes elects to partner Salayel, who is one of four fillies in the race and well beaten on her only start, three weeks ago, in a 1600m fillies’ maiden at Meydan. Purchased for €200,000 last May from the Goresbridge Breeze-Up, the Bated Breath filly is a half-sister to the very useful Bellamy Road, winner of the 2005 Grade 1 Wood Memorial, on dirt, at Aqueduct.
“Salayel was a bit disappointing at Meydan,” Bachalard said. “She probably needed the run more than we thought and it was a new experience with the lights and everything, so hopefully—in an environment she knows—she can run better. This is a good opportunity to try Eyelool on the dirt. If he does not seem to handle it we will look for turf options with him.”
The New Maharaja made a winning debut in this race last year for Satish Seemar, who saddles three this time. Richard Mullen has opted to ride Refulgence Star, making his UAE bow after three outings in Ireland for Willie McCreery. Owned by Yu Long, he is a gelded son of Fast Company and cost €50,000 as a yearling. He produced his best effort on his most recent outing, over 1600m, on heavy ground at Listowel.
Fledgling owners Phoenix Ladies Syndicate scored with their two very first runners at Meydan and their predominantly orange silks make their Jebel Ali debut for the first time with Ahmad bin Harmash saddling both a filly, Lady Winslow, and colt, Golden Jaguar. The former, a daughter of Winslow Homer, showed plenty of speed before fading on her one sole start over 1400m at Meydan. Stable jockey Connor Beasley, who did not ride her then, again deserts her in favour of her stablemate.
A colt by 2013 Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom, Golden Jaguar, a $60,000 Ocala Spring purchase as a 2-year-old last April, is a half-brother to six winners with their dam, Listed winner Golden Sunray, currently boasting a 100% strike rate with her progeny who have raced.
Of the rest, Shanaghai City could be a big danger for Rashed Bouresly, who saddled second and third in this race last year. A $47,000 Keeneland September yearling, the Shanghai Bobby colt was then sold as a juvenile at the Tattersalls Ireland Ascot Breeze-Up for £55,000 and has displayed plenty of speed in both starts, over 1600m and 1400m, at Meydan and this stiff 1000m could really suit him.
At the opposite end of the distance spectrum, the best of the handicaps is over 1950m; the longest distance currently raced over at Jebel Ali with the 2200m start no longer utilised, and has attracted a field of nine in what looks a very competitive heat.
Sheikh Ahmed, Bachalard and Hayes combine with Saafarr who had been off the track for 617 days before making both his local and dirt debut at Sharjah four weeks ago. Previously trained by Jim Bolger for Godolphin, the 6-year-old Teofilo gelding took 11 attempts to open his account, on his final start for Bolger, in a 1600m maiden on the all-weather at Dundalk in April 2017.
Bachalard said: “He would have needed that outing at Sharjah, but we perhaps had hoped for a bit better run. Anyway, he seems in good form and we will learn more about him on Friday.”
That Sharjah race was won by Bois de Boulogne, in opposition again and a Jebel Ali winner over 1800m at this meeting last year, but overlooked by Royston Ffrench in favour of course and distance winner, Galles. Both are trained by Sandeep Jadhav with Ffrench’s mount also runner-up, over Friday’s course and distance, in last year’s Listed Jebel Ali Stakes, won by another stable companion, Montsarrat, in February.
The 2014 Jebel Ali Stakes winner, Interpret, trained then by Musabbeh Al Mheiri and a half-brother to 2007 Dubai World Cup hero Invasor, has his first start for Khalifa Al Neyadi who also owns the 11-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor.
However, a bigger danger would appear to be the ultra-consistent Tradesman who does not seem to know how to run a bad race for Doug Watson. Pat Dobbs rides in the colours of EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club) whose spokesman, Justin Byrne, explained: “He ran well when third at Meydan’s first meeting of the season, but then had a small setback, so we have given him plenty of time with this race in mind. He is in great form, but this does look a tough race.”
Their colourful silks used to be carried by Cape of Eagles before the 5-year-old Cape Blanco horse changed hands at the end of last season. Now trained by Helal Al Alawi for Salem Omar Ali Bin Haidar, he made a winning start for new connections on the very first day of the season, at Jebel Ali, in a maiden over 1800m before disappointing in handicap over the same course and distance. Stepped up to Friday’s trip, a month later, he bounced back to winning ways in a handicap four weeks ago on his most recent start after which jockey William Lee attributed ‘time between races’ as the key to the horse.