6 November 2015 ~ Sharjah is the third racecourse to stage racing in the UAE this season and Saturday’s first meeting is a six race affair which has attracted a very healthy turnout with 86 runners set to face the starter.
The official feature is a 2000m handicap with a maximum field of 16 set to take their chances, including last year’s winner Bedayer Al Asayl. The mount of Tadhg O’Shea, he is one of two in the race for Eric Lemartinel, the new master of Al Asayl Stables and it could be significant that Gerald Avranche rides stable companion Bashayer.
Avranche’s mount has only had four outings, winning a 1400m Al Ain maiden on the second of them. She looks open to improvement and could be the one to beat.
Doug Watson, who has saddled doubles at both Jebel Ali and Meydan already this season, is another trainer doubly represented in the race.
Stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, rides Kokomo and Dane O’Neill, also in double form at Meydan on Thursday, is aboard The Secret for his main employer, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. A case can be made for both with the lightly raced Kokomo a 1700m course winner in maiden company on her fourth and most recent start, seemingly likely to appreciate the extra 300m on this occasion.
The Secret has yet to win a race after seven starts but has shown plenty of promise. Watson has made a good start to the season and was leading trainer at Sharjah last season.
“We had plenty of joy here at Sharjah last term,” said Watson. The Secret works like a good horse and I do not mind his wide draw as it means Dane can take his time and get a good position to suit himself. We could have waited a week with Kokomo but she was guaranteed a run here and we are keen to try her over 2000m. Hopefully both will run well.”
Foladh, MH Areeb, Swyft and Ameer Al Sraya are among the other previous Sharjah winners in the field in a typically competitive feature.
The only Thoroughbred race on the card is a 1200m handicap in which the weights are headed by Tagseed, trained by Musabah Al Muhairi, who had his first winner of the season on Thursday at Meydan, for Sheikh Hamdan and to be ridden by O’Neill.
As a nine-year-old he may be approaching the veteran stage but did win over course and distance last December. O’Neill could also have ridden the same owner’s Tajheez, a stablemate of Tagseed or Kifaah, trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe, another trainer who enjoyed a Meydan double.
Montmorency, with Richard Mullen riding for Satish Seemar, is another nine-year-old course and distance winner but he has not won since March 2012. They too celebrated a winner at Meydan.
Watson relies on Mukhabarat, well beaten at Jebel Ali last week. “Hopefully the flatter track at Sharjah will suit him,” said Watson. “He shows plenty of speed in the mornings and this looks a good spot for him.”
Dhruba Selvaratnam and stable jockey, Chris Hayes, made a bright start to the campaign at Jebel Ali for HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and combine with Mizwaaj. He tries the Sharjah surface for the first time on his seventh local start. Another making his course debut is Muharrib, trained by Ismail Mohammed and the mount of Wayne Smith.
“He is a nice horse,” said Smith. “He should give a good account but whatever he does on Saturday he will improve with the run under his belt.”