Strong Claims For 'Initial' 2019 Al Ain Meeting

The second race meeting of 2019 in the UAE is at Al Ain on Friday, a seven-race card with just one Thoroughbred contest, a competitive 1400m handicap which has attracted the maximum field allowed of 15.

A 1600m course winner on his seasonal debut in November, Initial has since finished third, then second, on his two subsequent outings at Jebel Ali and looks to hold strong claims for Musabbeh Al Mheiri and Ben Curtis.

Al Mheiri said: “We know he likes it at Al Ain and he has had a nice three week break, so we have to be hopeful he can run well in a competitive race.”

The defection of Ticket Holder allows Doug Watson to saddle Team Meeting, the only ride on the card for Pat Dobbs. A 5-year-old Exceed and Excel gelding, he has not really sparkled thus far in the UAE, but is starting to look well handicapped as a result. A winner on turf and on the all-weather in Great Britain for Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin, he should not be discounted with the Watson team in such good form.

Rashed Bouresly saddles three, with stable jockey Sherman Brown, aboard Voski, suggesting he is considered the main hope. Stable companions Bueller and Atta Alla also appear to have good claims. Sixth over 1400m at Jebel Ali last Friday, Voski has not won since his debut as a 3-year-old in March 2017. This will be just his fourth start since joining Bouresly, having also run twice last March.

The mount of Gerard Avranche, Bueller is another with a sole victory to his name, in his case as a juvenile in June 2015 for Andre Fabre and Godolphin. A 6-year-old by Medaglia d’Oro, he will be having just his second start for his current connections, having had spells with Watson, Mohammed Hussain and Beverley Deutrom since arriving in the UAE in 2016. Like Voski, Atta Alla was also in action at Jebel Ali last Friday when disappointing in a 1400m maiden.

Bouresly said: “We have three nice horses in the race and they all have a good chance. It is hard to split them, but we are very hopeful they can all run well.”

Satish Seemar has four in the race, with Richard Mullen opting to ride Iftitah, who yet to win in the UAE. Third over 1600m to Initial on his penultimate start he was subsequently fourth over 1000m, at Al Ain four weeks ago. This will actually be his first try over 1400m at Al Ain, but he was fourth over the trip at Jebel Ali on his seasonal debut.

Also based with Seemar at Zabeel Stables, champion jockey Tadhg O'Shea partners J Be Space, while Fernando Jara will be aboard Jabir and Chris Hayes on Cosmic Glow to complete the Seemar quartet.

The best of the Purebred Arabian action is a 1000m conditions race, the final race of the seven and which has also attracted the maximum field of 15. Seemar and Mullen combine with Elsa Du Bibal, a course and distance maiden winner three weeks ago, having chased home JAP Muwalk in an identical race just six days earlier. The latter, trained by Irfan Ellahi for Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, will be having just his fifth career start and first since that maiden victory four weeks ago. Royston Ffrench is in the saddle, as he was for that success.

If official ratings can be relied upon, local debutant Lou Raynal, with a mark of 80, will be very hard to beat with Xavier Ziani riding for Yousif bin Ghilan. However, his one previous outing on dirt, in Europe, resulted in a heavy defeat.