Key Bid, Empoli & Untested Sophomores Seek Carnival Berths On Saturday At Meydan

DUBAI (January 4, 2019)— Racing at Meydan on Saturday, a seven-race card which starts at 4:00 p.m., is highlighted by three AED 190,000 handicaps, of which two are on turf, including the 2000m finale (District One Crystal Lagoon Trophy). Topping the the maximum field of 16 is Dubai World Cup Carnival aspirant Key Bid, who exits a resounding victory on dirt over 2000m. Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi for Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, the 5-year-old Dubawi gelding has an official rating of 92, so is eligible for the dirt races at the Carnival, but needs to reach 95 to qualify for the turf options.

Twice a winner on turf for previous connections Godolphin and Charlie Appleby, over 2400m and 2700m, he clearly stays well and looks likely to go well under regular pilot, Fernando Jara.

“He is a horse we really like,” Jara said. “He ran well the first time and then won nicely. We were keen to try him on turf, so this looked an ideal race for him and we think he will run well.”

The weights are headed by Mr Pommeroy, returning from a 1400-day absence on his first start for Mohd Ramadan, having been trained previously for Salem bin Ghadayer and finishing third in both the Group 2 Al Rashidiya and Listed Dubai Millennium Stakes at the 2015 carnival. Apprentice Rowan Scott rides but it would be a remarkable training performance were he to win for the first time since February 2014.

Champion trainer Doug Watson saddles both Empoli, the choice of Pat Dobbs, and Mutamakkin, to be ridden by George Buckell. A Group One winner in September 2014, 9-year-old Empoli won for the only time since when landing a 2200m handicap at Abu Dhabi in November 2017. He was then second in a similar race over 2400m.

Watson said: “He seems in great form and this looks a good spot for him. Rated 93, he is close to the Carnival. Hopefully, he can run well and earn a Carnival rating.”

Also rated 93, Mutamakkin, is having his fourth start of the campaign and is seeking a first victory since winning a 1600m handicap at Sandown in June 2016 for Sir Michael Stoute and His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He is now owned by EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club), whose spokesman Justin Byrne said: “He did not seem to handle the sharp turn at Jebel Ali on his penultimate start and then ran well at Sharjah, but he is a turf horse really so we have had this race in mind all season. It looks very competitive, but Doug and his team are happy with him, so we are hoping for a big run.”

At the very first Meydan meeting of the current season, Litigation turned a 2000m dirt handicap into a procession under Chris Hayes but has not repeated that since, including when well-beaten over the same course and distance in the race won by Key Bid in December. A 4-year-old filly by Foxwedge, she was a close second in an 1800m Sandown handicap on turf in June of last year, so the surface should not be a concern. Robert Tart rides for Jaber Ramadhan, who also owns her.

Satish Seemar saddles three with Richard Mullen choosing to partner local debutant George Villiers, twice a winner in Britain for John Gosden and Princess Haya, but now owned by Mohd Khalifa Al Basti. A 4-year-old Dubawi colt, he looks an exciting new recruit, whereas stable companion Farrier has only ever run in the UAE since debuting in 2012. Winner of the 2017 Jebel Ali Stakes (Listed) over 1950m, his best turf effort was when chasing home Godolphin’s Tryster in the Jebel Hatta (G1) on Super Saturday 2016.
Tadhg O’Shea takes the ride.

Sixteen have also been declared for the 1600m turf handicap with the weights headed by Pouvoir Magique, having his first start for Watson and new owner Dale Brennan. A 5-year-old Le Havre gelding, he won three times in Britain for Princess Haya and Gosden, most recently over 1600m at Newbury in May.

Another having a first UAE outing, To Dibba is an interesting new recruit for Nicholas Bachalard and his main patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for whom, when trained by Roger Varian, he won once in England. Runner-up four times in nine career starts, this 5-year-old Dubawi gelding looks the type who could thrive in the UAE and appears well-intended under stable jockey Chris Hayes.

Freshly turned 3-year-olds line up in the opener, a wide-open 1600m maiden event—the kind of which could easily provide prospects for the recently boosted sophomore program during the Carnival. Trainer Doug Watson enters what appears to be a strong trio, including well-regarded Goldencents colt Moshaher, an US$87,000 purchase at OBS April who is owned by the same team—Mr. H and B—who won the last domestic season maiden event with Watson’s Al Seel Legacy’s. Watson also starts the good-looking Town Bee, a full-brother to 2018 Metropolitan Mile (G1) Bee Jersey, as well as Alda’iya, who makes his second start after finishing eighth on debut.