Grade 1 winner Ajuste Fiscal is among a plethora of returning stars in action at the opening meeting of the new Dubai Racing Carnival on Friday.
A winner over 2000m at Meydan Racecourse last December, Ajuste Fiscal was last seen finishing fifth in the Gr1 Maktoum Challenge Round 3 and resumes off top weight, with a full field of 15 rivals to beat. They include 2020 G3 UAE Oaks winner Down On Da Bayou as well as dual course winner Kafoo, stablemate of Ajuste Fiscal.
“Kafoo is a very interesting horse who arrived a few months ago to our stable,” said trainer Julio Olascoaga, who has taken over the handling of Kafoo from Bhupat Seemar. “He’s been working very well and even though we believe that his ideal might be further than a mile, it’s a good starting point.”
Kafoo will be partnered by stable jockey Jose Da Silva, with Dubai Kahayla Classic-winning rider Oscar Chavez on Ajuste Fiscal.
“Ajuste Fiscal goes for his fourth UAE season,” said Olascoaga. “He might need further to see him at his best, but it is not a concern as he’s well prepared. He can do some damage if things go his way.”
Seemar runs three, two of whom, Western Symphony and Imperial Empire, are now owned by Touch Gold Racing, having been sold by Al Rashid Stables during the summer.
“We considered splitting them up, but we think this is the right starting point for each of them,” said Mike Kaye, Touch Gold Racing Founder. “Tadhg [O’Shea, Stable Jockey] prefers Western Symphony, who had a good year last year, progressing through the ratings, and we’re hopeful he’ll have a good year for us.
“Imperial Empire has also been working well but is drawn 15 of 16. We’re not entirely sure where we are with him, having had quite a disappointing season last year. Hopefully we can drop him in here and he can run on and show us something, with a view to trying him over further in the future.”
The 1200m Emirates Airline Handicap, race seven, sees a high-profile recruit to the Olascoaga stable in dual course Group 3 winner Gladiator King.
The seven-year-old, who now carries the colours of Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, is on something of a redemption mission, having run just three times since 2021.
“There’s not much to say about his quality, he’s spoken for himself at Meydan before,” said the trainer. “He’s been training well and by now we have no excuses but to see him perform. Stable jockey Jose da Silva was happy with his final work and picked him over stablemate Fast-Uno.
“Fast-Uno didn’t show his full potential last season. He’s now gelded and has improved.”
Among the opposition to the Olascoaga pair is Kaye’s Leading Spirit, a winner on turf at Meydan but not on dirt.
“Leading Spirit comes into it off a 3lb rise for coming fourth in the Jebel Ali Sprint,” he says. “It’s a course and distance that we’re hoping this season he can show us something over, but this is very much a starting point as it’s a while since he ran here and his rating could be a bit high.”
Meydan also stages its first two-year-old race of the season on Friday, when eight clash in the Emirates Holidays Maiden, race two, over 1200metres.
Gaassid, a $160,000 son of UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn, is one of two in the race for Jebel Ali Stable trainer Michael Costa, who made a flying start to the season with five winners at his home track last weekend.
Costa also runs the Union Rags colt, Alsayef, the mount of James Orman, with new Stable Jockey Ben Coen on Gaassid. The Jebel Ali pair face six rivals, including Killer Collect, El Nasseeb and Tactical Bound, three Goffs Dubai Sale graduates.
Nine-time Dubai World Cup-winning trainer Saeed Bin Suroor begins early in Dubai this season and runs two on the card, starting with Wild Hurricane in the Emirates SkyCargo Handicap, race three. A seven-race maiden, he has his first start on dirt here under Adrie de Vries. His opposition includes Perfect Balance, already a winner this season when scoring at Sharjah.
One of the most competitive races of the evening is the closing 1400m Emirates.com Handicap. Dual Irish winner Fight Zone make his local debut for Olascoaga, who is optimistic about his chances.
“Fight Zone reappears after a three-year absence, and it’s his first time over Meydan’s dirt surface,” said the trainer. “He has worked very well towards this race, but race day is a different thing. Connections have waited a long time to see him running here, and we are as keen as they are to get him started.”
Fight Zone’s rivals include six course winners, with 1400metre specialist Mayaadeen one to keep an eye on for Champion Trainer Doug Watson, while Fawzi Nass’s Shake Hand also has a course and distance success on his CV.
Racing begins at 15h30 when the eight-race card gets underway with a Purebred Arabian 1400m handicap.