Quality Outweighs Quantity In Jebel Ali Features

Thursday November 12, 2020
Jebel Ali will stage their second fixture of the new campaign on Friday afternoon, a seven race card officially highlighted by a rated conditions stakes over 1600m which has attracted a select field of five, the weights headed by Captain Von Trapp.

The mount of Royston Ffrench, trained by Salem bin Ghadayer, the 4-year-old Trappe Shot colt will be seeking to provide Phoenix Thoroughbreds a first UAE winner with their 17th local runner. Twice successful in his native USA when trained by Steve Asmussen, he had three outings at Meydan during the 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival for Bin Ghadayer, by far the best being a close second on his most recent racecourse appearance in a 1600m dirt handicap.

Ffrench said: “He has done well over the summer and this look a good opportunity to get him going for the season and to try him at Jebel Ali.”

On official ratings, dirt debutant Gabr looks a massive threat with Sam Hitchcott riding for Doug Watson with Pat Dobbs on the sidelines injured. A 5-year-old son of Intello, he has been gelded since last seen in public at the end of January and will be having just his fifth start for Watson after a local debut in April 2019 and three appearances last season. He won twice in Britain for Sir Michael Stoute, most notably the Listed Foundation Stakes at Goodwood and Watson is looking forward to Friday.

Watson said: “He is a nice horse and has been working well. It is a small field and looks the ideal platform from which to build his season.”

However, Gabr is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum whose retained jockey, Dane O’Neill had three of the owner’s runners to choose from, opting to partner Eqtiraan for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. A gelded son of Helmet, the 6-year-old is winless after 13 UAE outings, just three on dirt, but was twice victorious in Britain when in the care of Richard Hannon. Fourth, over 1400m last November on his Jebel Ali debut, he finished last season with a heavy defeat over the same course and distance.

Al Rayhi also saddles the owner’s third runner, Mashaheer, the choice of stable jockey Connor Beasley over the same trainer’s third runner, Zaajer, the mount of Sandro Paiva. Both appear to face stiff tasks, at least according to the ratings.

As with the feature, it is a case of quality over quantity in the main support race, a handicap over 1800m, for which six are set to face the starter, including Watson duo Just A Penny and Grand Argentier. The former, the mount of Hitchcott, has the benefit of an outing this season and is a true course specialist; all his eight career victories having been achieved on the course, but just once over this 1800m.

Meanwhile, Grand Argentier has only competed at Jebel Ali once when disappointing over 1600m, way back in December 2016. He has won four times at Meydan, most recently in a 1900m carnival handicap in January, and the 8-year-old gelding has been a great servant to Watson and owners EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club).

On behalf of the owners, Justin Byrne explained: “He did not seem to like Jebel Ali, but that was a long time ago and a lot of work has been carried out on the surface since. The race reopened as there were so few entries, there is not much for him at Meydan at the moment, so we thought it was worth a go.”

Royston Ffrench chooses to ride Bin Ghadayer-trainee Montsarrat, a dual winner of the 1950m Jebel Ali Stakes, but finishing last, in February, seeking a hat-trick in that Listed contest. That was his final run of the season, suggesting something was amiss.