Three strong handicaps to highlight Thursday’s Abu Dhabi card

Six races on the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club turf om Thursday evening conclude with a 2200m handicap, the only Thoroughbred contest on the card and it certainly appears a case of ‘saving the best to last’ with 11 declared for this competitive affair.

For Shadwell, Doug Watson saddles Al Qaqoos, the mount of the owner’s retained jockey Dane O’Neill and a distant third, over 1900m on dirt at Meydan, on his seasonal reappearance 13 days ago. The 5yo War Front gelding may well have needed that first run for 307 days, although he did win first time out last year, over 2000m on the equivalent Meydan card 12 months earlier.

His other career victory, in Britain when trained by William Haggas, was on turf, over 2400m at Newmarket and he was third on his sole previous visit to Abu Dhabi, then second at Meydan, in his two outings on grass in the UAE.

Watson’s charge is joint top weight alongside the Ismail Mohammed-trained Celestial Spheres, an 8yo gelded son of Redoute’s Choice and seeking a third consecutive victory having finished last season in great form with a pair of 2400m handicap victories here in the capital.

Mohammed has booked the very promising apprentice Conor Planas to take a valuable 3kgs of his back and the trainer also saddles Ahesta Bero, to be ridden by Jose de Silva.
Twice a winner when trained in France by Andre Fabre, he failed to add to that tally during three starts in Britain for Simon Crisford, and the 6yo Dubawi gelding has yet to taste UAE success after four attempts, the most recent of which was when a close fourth behind Celestial Spheres in February. He does normally run well fresh though so should not be ruled out.

Bhupat Seemar is also doubly represented, in his case with the Al Rashid Stables-owned duo Poster Paint, who has the benefit of a run this season and is the choice of Tadhg O’Shea, and seasonal debutant Bosphorus who will have the assistance of Pat Cosgrave.

Another trainer with two chances is Salem bin Ghadayer, represented by both Mordin, the choice of Royston French and Xavier Ziani’s mount, Orientalism, returning from a long absence of 724 days.

Ahmad bin Harmash also saddles two with Light Beam, to be partnered by Saif Al Balushi, seemingly overlooked by Ray Dawson, in favour of Gareth.

The field is completed by Act Of Wisdom and bottom weight Sa’Ada, the only mare among the 11, representing Elise Jeanne and Qaiss Abood respectively.

With official ratings of 95 Thayer Athbah, trained by Mohamed Daggash for Athbah Stud and Ziad Galadari’s Gold Silver, in the care of Ibrahim Aseel, are the quality Purebred Arabians on show.

The former faces 13 rivals in a 1600m handicap, Shadwell’s Muneer, unbeaten after two starts in the UK, looking a potentially big danger under Dane O’Neill for John Hyde.

Gold Silver has 11 opponents to overcome, perhaps headed by AF Thayer, O’Shea in the saddle for Ernst Oertel and Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda.