Thursday’s meeting at Meydan was, for the most part, a great preview for the pending 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, with several conditions races aimed at attracting locally-based Carnival runners in search of a favourable prep.
What emerged most from the night, however, were some superb rides from selected jockeys and some otherwise, shall we say, ignorant performances. Granted, a conditions race in December is NOT when you want your horse to peak, or to be put in a troubling spot. Regardless, there is plenty to consider going forward as some of these runners make return appearances at Meydan.
Tarbawi (pictured below) tumbled down the all-weather ratings since the start of the season, shedding 26 pounds off his all-time top mark of 102 from March. While those numbers are still intact for turf and dirt, it was going to take a legitimate tide-turner to see him in the mix. Fortunately, for Tarbawi, he received an enterprising ride from Adrie de Vries, who took the gelding by Anabaa to the lead and dictated the tempo.
It was predictable that Waahy was going to get an overland trip from a wide draw, but we didn’t expect Shaishee to deal with the same from gate five. Sooth Al Ssalam, for his Libyan owner, doesn’t seem far off from a win at all, also covering plenty of extra ground. Meanwhile, Fa’Iz gave Erwan Charpy a thrill for another tally, with a great rally up the fence, his first run that close in a long while. Overall, Sooth Al Ssalam covered 24 metres more than Tarbawi, while Waahy went 18 metres more than the winner. Shaishee broke on top, and was wrangled off the speed, and an inside trip, and allowed to float outside of the eventual first and fourth place finishers.
If that doesn’t make much sense – let’s not mince words. Shaishee, our top pick in the race, was ahead of the eventual winner and fourth place finisher, but jockey Paul Hanagan yielded the pace and trip benefits to Tarbawi. Wam, bam, thank you ma’am. All Tarbawi did with this gift was go on to win the race, and the horse who broke widest and chased from closer to the speed, but wider, stayed on and ran fourth, being passed for the second placing in the final 30 metres. Sooth Al Ssalam was merely wide throughout and the same could essentially be said for Waahy. Shaishee’s run is the most questionable of the bunch, but all three are noteworthy to follow.
Rabbah De Carrere (pictured below) looked an easy winner 200 metres out, then surely looked to get caught in the final 100 metres, only to finally catch Shayel Aldhabi out of the corner of his eye and re-engage to re-take the filly in the final strides, winning the Mazrat Al Ruwayah (G2). Richard Hughes got his first win in the UAE, previously 0-from-38, and stayed glued to the rail draw. Third placer AF Lafeh and sixth-placer Bigg N Rich covered very wide trips, averaging speeds throughout the race greater than that registered by the winner. Still, the winner seems very useful – a colt by Bibi De Carrere out of Mizzna, bred in France by owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and trained by Majed Al Jahouri, whose solid run with the purebred Arabians continues.
Shayel Aldhabi ran very well, in our estimation, and could be a force on this scene for some time. The filly got over the all-weather with aplomb in her first try on it, and should have a shout at the bigger prizes as the season progresses.
We have loved Surfer for a good while, and it was great to see him manage a win against some quality company – defeating former Godolphin Mile second Mufarrh, Maktoum Challenge winner Barbecue Eddie, and Al Fahidi Fort winner Derbaas. Bred by Darley in America, and by Distorted Humor out of the Ocean Crest mare, Surf Club, Surfer has knocked heads in quality company, but finally got over the hump in fine fashion. A trip to the Maktoum Challenge – Round 1 seems likely with the Carnival looming.
Samurai Sword ran very well after a stutter-step at the start. He is a good one for trainer Ahmad bin Harmash, who has taken over for Mubarak bin Shafya, and seems well-handicapped with the Carnival looming. Barbecue Eddie, one of our all-time favourites, had a bit of a slow start and then found himself in and amongst horses, which history has shown us is far from his preference. The old boy loves to be out in the clear, and we think he is still eligible to run a better one if drawn a bit wider and attending the pace, both of which went against him with the draw and the slow jump. Hopefully he is in good order to take another chance in January at the rip age of 11.
We thought Rafeej (below) might be in trouble out of the handicaps with a horse like Tamaathul in here, but the Sharjah course-record holder has shown his progressive application is deserved. Bred in the UK by Whatton Manor Stud, Rafeej is by Iffraaj out of the Mizaaya mare, Muffled. The win was his first in two tries on the all-weather at Meydan, and second of the season. Earlier in the campaign when at Sharjah, he demolished Surge Ahead and Parvaaz, good signs to come from Thursday’s sixth race.
If it was intended to get a race under the belt of Meandre, it probably worked. Look, at the end of the day, the highest-rated horse in the fifth-race field covered a whopping 18 metres more than the winner and second-placer, Izaaj, who also saved oodles of ground. 18 metres is roughly equivalent to seven lengths, but the margin back to Meandre was just 2 ½. While riders can think they are keeping their horse in the clear and out of trouble, it yields added energy usage in order to maintain position, and as such, it could leave less in the tank for the later runs. Sure enough, Ralston Road (pictured below) and Izaaj stayed inside, while Farrier and Meandre did the dirty work out wide, and it hurt them both. Meandre is useful, and this race should have been good for him. If anything, it reiterated that he can get over the Tapeta without concern.
Meanwhile, the run of the first two finishers should be well-commended. Tadhg O’Shea and Adrie de Vries were spot-on, extracting as much as possible from their mounts. Knowing that Ralston Road gets over this trip should be wildly encouraging for connections, Thistle Bloodstock, who owned and bred the winner. By Dylan Thomas out of the Galileo mare, Advertising Space, Ralston Road now opens up a range of possibilities for trainer Satish Seemar, and is surely well up in the handicap ratings as a result.
The last race of the night was far from the most enlightening, but the expected grudge-match between Parvaaz and Surge Ahead came to fruition. We gave the edge to Parvaaz in our analysis, and it played out as such. Bred by Darley, Parvaaz is by Rahy out of the Woodman mare, Saabga. Dhruba Selvaratnam trained the winner, while apprentice Thomas Brown earned his second win of the season.
Racing resumes in the UAE on Sunday at Abu Dhabi, and is back at Meydan on Thursday, January 2.