Racing at Meydan on Thursday was highlighted by The Entisar sponsored Listed DP World UAE Region and Listed Garhoud Sprint, with the former over the same 2000m as the $12 million Gr1 Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline.
Both races were won by the 2014-15 champion trainer Mussabeh Al Mheiri in dominant fashion.
Military Law (pictured above) upset the proverbial apple cart in The Entisar by three lengths in what was only his second start on dirt and in the UAE.
The 4-year-old Dubawi gelding, well beaten on his local debut in a 1600m Meydan handicap a fortnight ago, was always travelling strongly under Antonio Fresu.
With the benefit of that run under his belt, it appeared race fitness proved key as he powered past Gronkowski, runner-up in this year’s Dubai World Cup, who finished third and G1-winning runner-up Saltarin Dubai, who tried valiantly to make all the running. Trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri and now owned by Nasir Askar, celebrating a double on the card, he lived up to connections’ expectations
“He is a nice horse and I have been riding him almost every day in the mornings,” Fresu said. “He moved really well on the dirt. What I expected today was to finish in the first three because we gave him a first run two weeks ago and it was over a mile and that was maybe just to get him ready for this race. It was a bit too sharp for him and he missed the break that day. Today, the horse jumped well and I got in a really good position behind Saltarin Dubai—followed him and tracked him. When Gronkowski came past me, I just moved on his back and my horse was still going really well, so he tried his best in the last stretch (of the race). The horse came on a lot from his run and he was much better today. He needed a first run on the dirt and can still improve a bit. This is his first season running in the UAE and his first season running on the dirt and I think he will be a nice horse for the (Dubai World Cup) Carnival. Gronkowski and New Trails are good horses and even last season they didn’t run really well first time out because they are massive horses. Let us just say I was lucky tonight and we will see how it goes next time.”
“I often ride him out and I suggested this race to the owner and trainer but, obviously, I was not expecting a Gronkowski in the field but my horse was always travelling nicely and, hopefully, is going to be a nice horse for the Dubai World Cup Carnival.”
A second Listed race, the 1200m The Garhoud Sprint sponsored by JAFZA, looked very competitive on paper but, as it transpired, proved a straightforward task for Ibn Malik (pictured below), who made up for his nose runner-up finish to Drafted—who defected from this year’s edition earlier this week—last year.
A 6-year-old gelded son of Raven’s Pass and homebred by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he was chased home by fellow Shadwell Stud colour-bearer Waady, who ran on strongly for trainer Doug Watson and jockey Sam Hitchcott. Allowing the speed to unfold ahead of him, O’Neill kept the chestnut in the clear, going four-wide around the turn and quickly inhaling his opposition en route to a 4¾-length victory. It was the winner’s first run since an eighth in the $1.5 million Godolphin Mile (G2) in March.
O’Neill said: “These choices are never easy and it was a very difficult decision to make. I won on Waady last time so it was not easy to get off him but I just decided Ibn Malik was the way to go because I thought the race would unfold to suit him. We have tried various trips and surfaces with this horse, but this is probably his optimum. He stays further and runs well on turf, so is a great horse to be involved with.”
The meeting kicked off with the P&O Marinas, a 1600m maiden which produced a thrilling finish with five of the eight runners holding every chance entering the final 200m at which point Majestic Thunder hit the front under Richard Mullen.
However, challengers appeared on all sides and it was Celtic Prince, a 4-year-old Shamardal gelding spoiling the party for owner-trainer Rashed Bouresly. It was a first winner this season for the Bouresly and a first ever locally for his young Czech jockey, David Liska.
Liska said: “Obviously I am very happy to ride my first UAE winner and very grateful to Mr Bouresly and his team for this opportunity.”
The juveniles had their moment under the Meydan lights in the Jebel Ali Port, a 1600m conditions race. Richard Mullen and Satish Seemar, out of luck with Majestic Thunder, gained swift recompense with Commanding, who ran out the very easy winner just two weeks after a hard-luck loss over 1400m on debut. Sent straight to the front by Mullen, the Camacho colt was never headed and shot clear at the top of the straight, after which the result was never in doubt.
Mullen said: “That was a very good run first time because he is work in progress and a big baby. He is really still learning about the game and I was surprised how easily he won. He can only progress but things will get a lot tougher going forward.”
A 2000m handicap, the Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal, was won stylishly by Grand Argentier, confidently ridden by Pat Dobbs for Doug Watson and EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club).
Settled in third by Dobbs, the 7-year-old gelded son of Palace Episode was always travelling strongly before being sent for home 300m out. Once in front, the result was never in doubt with Grand Argentier recording a fourth career victory and third in the UAE having also won over 1500m on soft turf in France back in February 2015.
Representing the owners, Justin Byrne said: “We gave him six weeks off which we thought he, at his age, now needed. He does not like Jebel Ali so we needed to wait for this back at Meydan and our patience has been rewarded.”
Watson was soon celebrating a double in the Mina Hamriya, a 2200m handicap, with Sam Hitchcott-piloted Arch Gold.
A 4-year-old gelded son of Arch and a winner just once previously, in a 1950m maiden at Jebel Ali last November, he was settled just off the speed before striking for home early in the straight and he ran on gamely to hold off the challenge of Quartier Francais.
“He won his maiden nicely at Jebel Ali, but does not appear to like going back there now up the hill, so we came here,” Watson said. “He worked so well on Sunday we decided to run him in this. Luckily, it has all worked out really well.”
The finale, a 1400m handicap, the Mina Rashid, gave Watson a triple on the night when heavily favoured Midnight Sands sat comfortably on the pace before powering clear and then holding off the hard charge of Gaudi in second. A winner of three of four on the dirt, the son of Speightstown toted top weight of 60kgs—seven more than the runner-up.
“It was a lot of weight and maybe he’s a six-furlong horse and a very good sprinter,” Watson. “Then again, he was giving them a lot of weight and ran really well. He’s a good horse and we really think a lot of him.”
- Dubai Racing Club