Familiar Rivals Meet New Faces In Wide Open Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile

Jebel Ali stage the biggest race of their season on Friday afternoon when nine runners go to post in the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile, including old rivals Forjatt and Shamaal Nibras, the two most recent winners of the 1600m contest when beating one another.

Owned by racecourse patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and trained on the Jebel Ali track, Forjatt is a dual winner of the race and was also first past the post in 2015, but subsequently disqualified after testing positive for a prohibited substance. Now an 11-year-old, the gelded son of Iffraaj first landed the spoils in 2014 and then again in 2017, having also finished second in 2016 and again last year, behind Shamaal Nibras. On his maiden start for Jebel Ali Stables’ new trainer, Nicholas Bachalard, and his first since defeat in Friday’s race last year, he made a winning return in the 1600m Listed National Day Cup, a race he also won in 2015 on the Abu Dhabi turf.

Bachalard said: “He won the Abu Dhabi race in style and has been in good form since. Obviously he has been a great servant to the yard and owner, so it would be lovely to win this race again, but it will not be easy.”

The pair has shared top honours on a few occasions in this race. Twelve months ago Shamaal Nibras finished ahead of Forjatt and gained revenge for 2017 when he was second to Forjatt. It was a well-deserved victory in a contest in which he is also a regular. Trained by Doug Watson for EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club), the 10-year-old First Samurai gelding was eighth in the National Day Cup behind his old rival and is joined in the field by stable companion Just A Penny.

Owned by Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, the 7-year-old Kodiac gelding can certainly be described as a Jebel Ali specialist with all seven victories registered here. The first, in December 2015, was over 1200m with the most recent, last March, over 1950m. This will be just his second outing of the campaign having finished a well beaten fifth in the 1600m Jebel Ali Mile Prep in late December.

Watson, fresh from a Meydan double last Saturday, said: “Both mine love it at Jebel Ali and are in great form at home, so we are hoping for big runs. The 1600m is probably the Jebel Ali optimum for Shamaal Nibras whereas Just A Penny is, perhaps, better over further, but this race has been their target and we are hopeful.”

Winner of that Jebel Ali Mile Prep was Rocket Power, registering a third consecutive course victory for Ahmad bin Harmash and Connor Beasley, but not enough to guarantee his place in Friday’s field. Also owned by Al Basti, connections sent to him to Meydan last Saturday, for a 1400m turf handicap, which he promptly won, securing the 6-year-old Kyllachy gelding his place.

“We had not planned to run at Meydan, but at least discovered he is as good on turf,” Bin Harmash said. “With little time between races we have just tried to freshen him up and hope he can run well, but obviously it looks a strong race.”

Like Watson, both Sandeep Jadhav and Satish Seemar are doubly represented with, for the former, Royston Ffrench electing to ride Mailshot. That leaves Xavier Ziani aboard Fitzgerald, who is having just his second start for the yard with three wins in the bag for Bin Harmash, including the Listed Dubai Creek Mile at Meydan in December 2016.

Jadhav said: “Mailshot was disappointing last time and is having his first Jebel Ali outing, whereas Fitzgerald is a course winner. Both seem in good form and can hopefully be competitive in an open renewal.”

Mailshot will be having just a second outing on dirt having, on his local debut, failed to beat a rival in a 1400m Meydan handicap won by Secret Ambition. One of the aforementioned Seemar duo in Friday’s race, the 6-year-old Exceed And Excel horse, a dual Jebel Ali winner, including over course and distance, is the choice of Richard Mullen.

As a result, Tadhg O’Shea is aboard stable companion and local debutant, Behavioral Bias, thrice victorious in the US, most recently in a 1200m conditions race in New Orleans at the Fair Grounds in December 2017. Always highly regarded, the ex-Al Stall Jr. trainee has faced stiff competition in America and must be respected if at his best and able to cope with his first right-handed turn in a race.