A Watson Treble Before Mystery Land Takes Feature

The first Jebel Ali fixture of the new UAE season was officially highlighted by a 1400m conditions race. Only four went to post, but just one really mattered throughout the final 100m when Mystery Land and Pat Cosgrave surged clear to win stylishly.

Trained by Helal Al Alawi for Bandar Muwisan Al Otaibi, the Godolphin-bred 4-year-old gelded son of Sea The Stars was maintaining his unbeaten record having won a maiden, on debut, over this course and distance at the final meeting of last season. Mystery Land is the only horse to have raced for the owner to date. Slowly away, as he was on debut, he raced in a share of last with hot favourite Moqtarreb who looked the likely winner when quickening to lead passing the 500m pole, but just 200m later he had no answer when Cosgrave asked his mount for maximum effort.

Al Alawi said: “Obviously this was a better race than the maiden he won, but we knew he deserved to take his chance. He is still learning and can, hopefully, only improve for the extra experience.”

The meeting opened with a modest 1400m handicap and the ultra-consistent Guernsey doubled his career tally with a well-deserved success through a hard fought victory under Sam Hitchcott. Trained by Doug Watson for Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, the 6-year-old Tapit gelding was a winner for Godolphin in America in November 2016. This was a first local victory after 15 previous attempts when he had finished second four times, including thrice earlier this year, and third a further three. Rich And Famous looked set to lead from the outset when kicked clear at halfway by Royston Ffrench, but was unable to withstand the late challenge of Hitchcott’s determined mount.

Watson said: “He nearly always runs well, so it is nice to see him get his head in front. Hopefully he can follow up now he has won again and it would be nice if he can land a few more.”

Trainer and jockey were soon celebrating a double after Dark Thunder led close home to take the following 1200m maiden, this time for Lawrence Burke, Garey Goss and Peter Birbeck.

A 4-year-old gelded son of Alhebayeb, it was a tenth UAE outing for the winner after nine unsuccessful efforts in Britain when trained by Tom Dascombe. His previous efforts included finishing runner-up on six occasions, four locally. Settled nearer last than first, he was asked to close about halfway by Hitchcott who was content to wait for the final 200m before throwing down the decisive challenge to Kingdom Of Dubai. The latter had been in front for about 350m only to be denied close home.

Watson said: “Like the first race that was another great ride from Sam and I am delighted for the owners of both horses who have had been placed often, but have now both won. Watson added: “Again, as with Guernsey, now he has that win hopefully he can go in again.”

Pat Dobbs then put his name on the scoresheet, completing a treble for Watson and double for Al Basti in a good quality 1400m handicap aboard Mystique Moon, winner of the equivalent race last year when chased home by Riflescope. In a déjà vu moment, that same rival again chased home in a race he has now finished second in three consecutive years. The 2018 winner, High On Life, was fourth, denied third right on the line, this year. Always travelling well, the 6-year-old Shamardal gelding swept to the front inside the final 400m and, at least as a contest, the race was over. It was his fourth local and sixth career victory.

Watson said: “We came here hopeful because we knew we had good chances in these first three races and no runners in the next three. We expected them to run well, but have to be delighted with an early treble.

Speaking of his third winner Watson remarked: “This is a nice horse who will have a nice break now before we aim him at some better races later on.”
The 1200m handicap looked competitive on paper, but Daltrey proved that to be a myth, rocketing clear fully 550m from home under a positive ride from Sando Paiva, powering up the hill to win comfortably for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi and Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Humaid Al Nuaimi. A 5-year-old Iffraaj gelding, he was posting a second career success having landed a handicap over the same track and trip in January, again under Paiva.

Paiva said: “We were a bit slowly away, but once I took him out of the kickback, he carried me there strongly, quickened nicely and kept on very well.”

Comfortable winners were somewhat a theme throughout the card and What A Metal was another in the 1000m maiden for 3-year-olds, probably never headed under Royston Ffrench for Salem bin Ghadayer and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd Al Maktoum. A colt by Exceed And Excel having just his fifth start, What A Metal is, reportedly, named in honour of Heavy Metal who was such a great servant for connections and by the same sire.

The finale was by far the longest race on the card and the only one not contested solely on the straight track. A 1950m handicap, it too produced an easy winner for Ffrench, Bin Ghadayer and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd with Fraseburgh proving far too good for his 11 rivals. Now a 10-year-old, the Shamardal gelding was recording a fifth career success and third for current connections since switching to the UAE.