06 January 2024

ERA Meydan Review

Red Stables boss Doug Watson enjoyed a first-ever Group 2 Zabeel Mile success at Meydan Racecourse on Friday night after Pat Dobbs’ patience in the saddle aboard San Donato was rewarded late on with a smooth run to the front in the turf contest that served as the feature event on the nine-race programme.

It was a terrific ride from Dobbs, who had won the 2022 running of the Listed Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan National Day Cup at Abu Dhabi with the Lope De Vega gelding on his UAE debut. 

And with racing luck arriving in time, San Donato - winless in five subsequent starts, including when marking his seasonal bow with a close second behind Laneqash in a bid to defend his aforementioned National Day Cup honour - and Dobbs were able to return to the winners’ enclosure.

A field of 13 jumped with Dobbs restraining a very keen San Donato for most of the race as the field ran to a pace set by First Constitution, who forced himself to the front, but faded in the straight to finish 11th.

San Donato plied his trade at the rear with only Marshall Plan behind him and it remained that way until the field straightened for home. The Saeed bin Suroor-trained Real World seemed to go well in the hands of Cristian Demuro, but once Michael Costa’s UAE debutante Marbaan (Ben Coen) applied the pressure, he faded leaving the race open. 

From that point, Marbaan seemed to have things under control, but finding a gap open right in front of his eyes, Dobbs pulled out all stops and let San Donato race freely.

The pair hit the front 100m out and went forward gamely to win by a length-and-a-quarter from Marbaan, with Julio Olascoaga’s El Patriota finishing strongly along the centre of the track from a long way off under Jim Crowley to take third, a mere half length in arrears.

Bhupat Seemar enjoyed a 1-2 in the main event on the undercard, the Group 3 Dubawi Stakes, where 2023 Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint winner Tuz, in the command of Tadhg O’Shea, set the pace after breaking from the widest stall and continually found more in the straight to win with eight-and-a-half lengths to spare from stable companion Leading Spirit (Pat Cosgrave), with Colour Up a further four lengths back in third for Watson and William Buick, who had earlier scored a treble.

Buick claimed his first winner when winning the 2000m Zabeel Turf handicap (85-112) aboard Charlie Appleby’s Local Dynasty and added a second riding the George Boughey-trained sprinter Walbank in the 1200m Azizi Venice handicap (80-105). 

A third followed in the Jumeirah Guineas Trial, where Godolphin’s Legend Of Time, another Appleby trainee, who made his bid for glory after sitting off the pace, and was made to fight until the end by Francis-Henri Graffard’s Shamrock Glitter who battled along the rail until the finish only to end up a length behind in the hands of Royston Ffrench. A further length-and-three-quarters back in third was Athan for Fawzi Nass and Adrie de Vries.

Ahmad bin Harmash and Connor Beasley found the winning luck they needed in the Mina by Azizi 1200m maiden won by Mr Kafoo, while Seemar and O'Shea’s first success of the night was carried home on the back of Nevershow Weakness in the Azizi Reve 2000m handicap.

The much-anticipated UAE 2000 Guineas Trial was won by Michael Costa's red hot Ma Yetal (Coen), whose composure helped him overcome interference from Rasas early in the stretch and focus on his racing. Coen’s mount was very professional and dusted the incident off him to hold off a strong challenge from Olascoaga’s Quartier (Da Silva), who gave weight to the rest on account of his Southern Hemisphere breeding.

Ma Yetal won with three quarters of a length to spare, with Military Artist, a further three-and-a-quarter behind for Fawzi Nass and De Vries.

Salem bin Ghadayer won the card-ending 1600m Azizi Riviera handicap (65-90) after terrific riding from Mickael Barzalona found a way for Made In Dubai to pounce on the lead and kick for a length-and-a-quarter success from Royal Dubai (Lucie Botti/Cosgrave).