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Jebel Ali Racecourse’s final meeting of 2016 is on Friday afternoon and highlighted by the Jebel Ali Mile Prep.
This is a 1600m conditions race designed as a stepping stone towards the track’s biggest race of the season, the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile, on January 20th 2017.
Both races are over 1600m and Forjatt has won each of them, landing the big race itself in 2014 and this prep last season, when it was actually contested this year, in early January.
He was also first past the post in the 2015 Jebel Ali Mile, but subsequently disqualified after testing positive for a prohibited substance.
However, he still has eight victories to his name since joining Dhruba Selvaratnam about four years ago.
Forjatt is owned by HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Selvaratnam’s main patron and owner of Jebel Ali Racecourse where Forjatt is trained and Selvaratnam is based.
The horse has had two Abu Dhabi outings so far this season, running well on both occasions, and despite a penalty and his advancing years looks a big threat to his 11 rivals.
“He is approaching nine years of age now and has to give weight to younger rivals,” said Selvaratnam. “Obviously he is proven under these conditions though and he is in good form at home.
“Just A Penny looked very good at the end of the last season, with the Doug Watson horses in such good form he looks the one to beat.”
That sentiment was shared by Richard Mullen who rides Mawhub, one of two in the race for his main employer, Satish Seemar who also saddles Jadeer, the mount of apprentice Cameron Noble.
“Mawhub goes really well at Jebel Ali and has been working well,” said Mullen. “It is a tough race though with Forjatt a very strong Jebel Ali performer and Just A Penny who looked very good at the end of last season and is a massive danger.”
The race is sponsored by Shadwell, the UK arm of the worldwide breeding empire owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum whose own famous blue and white silks will be carried by both Nolohay and Nathr.
The latter, the choice of the owner’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill, is one of three in the race trained by Doug Watson but yet to prove himself on dirt.
Stable companion, Grand Argentier though has won on a similar surface at Meydan in February and is a strong contender.
However, the trainer’s best hope would appear to be Just A Penny, who won on four occasions at Jebel Ali last season. In that campaign the four year old began as a maiden and was the choice of stable jockey Pat Dobbs.
The first of those victories was achieved in December last year but the horse seemed to thrive as the season progressed and ended the season winning his final three outings.
Just A Penny would have benefitted from a seasonal reappearance when well beaten in the Derrinstown Stud at Jebel Ali last month, over what is now probably an inadequate 1400m and he looks sure to go close.
“Just A Penny is a horse we have high hopes for and Friday will tell us a lot,” said Watson. “He has certainly improved since his first run of the season and will appreciate the extra 200m this time.
“There are few other options at the moment for either Nathr or Grand Argentier so this looks a good opportunity to try them for a second time at Jebel Ali where both have raced once previously.”
Beachy Head who is trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi and is the mount of stable jockey Tadhg O’Shea, was impressive six weeks ago, winning a similar Jebel Ali race over 1400m and certainly cannot be discounted in a fascinating contest.
The last two UAE race meetings of 2016 are at Sharjah on Saturday and Meydan next Thursday.