October 28, 2021 (DUBAI) – The 2021-22 UAE flat racing season kicks off ‘up the hill’ on Friday, October 29, at Dubai’s picturesque Jebel Ali Racecourse, commencing the action at 1:45 p.m. for the first of seven fixtures. A highly competitive 1200m feature, schedule as the fourth race (3:15 p.m.), tops the meeting, but the day is also filled with fresh and familiar faces—both human and equine.
The aforementioned six-furlong featured handicap is slated for northern and southern hemisphere 3-year-olds and upward (rated 80-109) and has drawn a competitive dozen, but few more intriguing than HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s sophomore filly Cocobai, who was an emphatic winner at Jebel Ali over seven furlongs in March and makes just her fourth start and first since a disappointing try on the turf at Meydan on April 8.
By consistent sire Munnings and out of a half-sister to American Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, Cocobai takes on a field of established sorts, but arguably has the most upside—especially with trainer Salem bin Ghadayer’s stable jockey Royston Ffrench taking the reins. Bin Ghadayer also has High on Life entered, conversely at age 10 and making his 40th career start, while also topping the ratings (98) and weights (62kgs). A three-time winner over the distance, the son of Invincible Spirit will surely show plenty of his usual speed under Xavier Ziani when he breaks from post five.
Shadwell’s Doug Watson-conditioned Fanaar has often threatened to be a proper horse, but his season did not go to plan last year for his lofty connections. The son of Dark Angel teams up with his reigning UAE champion trainer’s top rider, Pat Dobbs, and seeks his third win in what will be the 97-rated 5-year-old bay gelding’s 26th start.
Another son of Dark Angel, 95-rated Story of Light, adds a bit of intrigue to the lineup, making his first start at Jebel Ali and first since leaving the yard of Charlie Appleby. Now in the care of Ahmad bin Harmash, the 4-year-old bay gelding carries the colours of Mohd Ahmad Ali Al Subousi and seeks his second victory in what will be his seventh start.
The feature’s field is completed by consistent speedster Dahawi, Silchester, Wheels on Fire, Cardsharp, Drummore, Expressionist, Ababil and HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Sharamm.
The opening fixture features older maidens over a straight-course seven furlongs and appears a wide-open affair. Regally bred Express Route, a son of Quality Road and half-brother to classy G1 Pacific Classic-placed Prime Attraction, looks to have ample promise, especially returning to the course over which he was a good second to Vasari last February for trainer Doug Watson and owner Al Rashid Stables. Watson holds a strong hand in this nine-horse affair, also saddling UAE debutante Exciting Days, a son of Blame bred specifically for the dirt who will be piloted by Sam Hitchcott, as well as Mohd Khalifa Al Basti’s Shanghai Tong, who has the services of George Buckell.
Shadwell holds a solid trio of aces in the day’s second race, a 1400m handicap in which 15 have declared. Musabbeh Al Mheiri-trained Meydan Challenge (Listed) winner Zainhom (Antonio Fresu aboard) makes his first start since finishing 11th of 12 in the G1 Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World on March 27. The same connections have Almushref scheduled to go under Bernardo Pinheiro, while Watson-trained Shadwell colour-bearer Eshtiraak(Buckell aboard) will surely be well-regarded over a course upon which he placed twice last season.
HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Tahdeed catches the eye in the day’s third race, a sophomore maiden affair over six furlongs. Trained by Nicholas Bachalard and to be ridden by Richie Mullen, the son of Godolphin Mile (G2) winner Tamarkuz was short on luck but long on promise in his four starts last season. Gelded since, the grandson of Medaglia d’Oro appears an improver—and will have to be if he is going to successfully take on the likes of Elbashir Salem Elhrari’s Dignity Joy, astern whom he finished 1½ lengths (finishing third and fourth) in last season’s Dubai Trophy at Meydan.
One race following the feature is a 1950m tactical test around the Jebel Ali’s right-handed bend. Satish Seemar-trained Dubai Canal looks primed to once again improve for owner Ailan Hamad Kadfoor Al Mehairi and should be a force with which to reckon in this spot, but must go through course-and-distance winners Miracle Maker and Mudallel, as well as a host of challengers from the Doug Watson yard. Tadhg O’Shea, in his first season atop the Zabeel Stables roster, takes the reins on Dubai Canal, drawing well in post three.
A pair of 1600m affairs—an older handicap and one 3-year-old maiden—complete the meeting, with the latter/nightcap including the return of HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s well-intended Super Saver filly Nayefah, a runner-up in four races last season, including the G3 UAE Oaks. The good-looking, leggy filly was last seen finishing second to feature contender Cocobai over this track in March.
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Emirates Racing Press Release