The 2017-18 UAE racing season opens at Jebel Ali Racecourse this afternoon with a six race card highlighted by a 1000m handicap. The race meeting also features a return to the course for both Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor.
The featured dash has attracted a quality field of 12, including Sholaan, trained on the track by Gopi Selvaratnam for racecourse patron HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Gopi Selvaratnam has replaced his recently retired brother, Dhruba, in the prestigious post this season.
Off the track since contesting the equivalent race last year, Sholaan is a dual course and distance winner, albeit in 2014 and has not won since the second of those victories, almost three years ago.
Selvaratnam said: “We know the track suits him well and he is in good form at home but he has been off a long while and it looks a hot race.
“He should run well but will improve for the run after a year off.”
He will be ridden by Tom Marquand, making his UAE debut on the day with five races on the card.
Apart from Sholaan three more among the declared dozen have been off the track for a year or more. Satwa Story will be seeking to overcome the longest absence of 1007 days, having not been seen in public since victorious over 1200m at Meydan in January 2015.
One of three in the race for Satish Seemar, he is the choice of stable jockey, Richard Mullen, who said: “He is a horse we have always held in very high regard but has had his fair share of niggles and small problems.
“It will be his first try at Jebel Ali and over 1000m but we hope it will suit him. Fingers crossed, we can keep him sound and enjoy a good season with the horse.”
The race is sponsored by Shadwell, the worldwide breeding empire of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whose blue and white colours will be carried by both Sahaafy and Kasb, trained by Maria Ritchie and Ali Rashid Al Rayhi respectively.
Portamento, trained by Al Rayhi and the mount of stable jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, makes his UAE debut having previously raced for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin. The Five year old has not been seen on a racecourse since August 2015.
Godolphin have two runners on this card with Saeed bin Suroor saddling both.
The trainer’s last visit to Jebel Ali produced a double in February 2003, while the Godolphin blue was last victorious on the course in February 2001 when Festival Of Light, saddled by Bin Suroor, was a winner.
Fans of the world’s biggest international stable do not have long to wait with Pat Cosgrave combining with the Godolphin team aboard Military Parade in the opening 1950m handicap.
His 15 rivals include Asatir, winner of the same race last year for Erwan Charpy.
Adrie de Vries partners the second Godolphin contender, Perfect Sense, one of 13 declared for a 1200m handicap.
Bin Suroor, whose two runners are both three-year-old maidens with the potential benefit of a run already this month, in England, explained: “This year we have a few horses suitable for some of the early season races so have shipped them to Dubai.
“It will give us an opportunity to assess them with regards to their future plans. Hopefully they can progress through the ranks.”
The action moves to Abu Dhabi on Saturday.