The new season will feature 67 race meetings, equalling its record offer of 2018-19, with the campaign beginning and ending at Meydan.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
Anticipation is high as the magical Meydan Racecourse, home of the grandest night in the world of horse racing, opens its gates to an exciting new season on Thursday.
The UAE horseracing season would usually start at the state-of-the-art Jebel Ali Racecourse in the past, but for the first time, Meydan will host the opening race of the season as well as the season-ending finale.
In what could be termed as a night of exciting firsts in many ways, the opening evening of the season will also feature the first race for the classic generation of 2020: a 1200m maiden affair that is an important stepping stone to the ramped-up $4,325,000 sophomore stakes programme hosted by Dubai Racing Club.
The new season will feature 67 race meetings, equalling its record offer of 2018-19, with the campaign ending at Meydan on Friday, April 10, 2020.
After the opening Meydan fixture, Abu Dhabi Racecourse and Jebel Ali Racecourse will commence their seasons on the following two Fridays – Oct.25 and Nov.1, respectively.
Racing at Sharjah Racecourse gets under way eight days later on Saturday, Nov.2, while the Al Ain Racecourse will open its doors the following Thursday, Nov.14.
As they did during the last season, Meydan will host 23 meets, Abu Dhabi 15, Al Ain 12, Jebel Ali 11 and Sharjah six.
With more than 400 races on the cards for both thoroughbreds and Purebred Arabians, the highlight of the season will be the 25th running of the $35 million Dubai World Cup meeting on March 28, at the Meydan racecourse.
Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of Emirates Racing Authority (ERA), said: “The new season will provide the trainers and horse lovers an integrated season on the UAE’s five racecourses. Through this fixture list, we offer local and international races for the Thoroughbred and Arabian horses.”
Action on Thursday begins with Emirates Holidays— a 1200m race — kicking off the 2019-20 campaign with a six-race card.
The opening race is a 2-year-old maiden event over 1200m for the classic generation of 2020 that features seven aspiring juveniles.
The first of two featured handicaps, the emirates.com race over 2000m looks particularly competitive with a field of 11 declared, including Top Clearance. After more than a quarter-century in Dubai, six-time UAE champion trainer Doug Watson still gets excited when the season begins, especially with the UAE flat season commencing at Meydan Racecourse for the first time.
The six-time champion trainer exits a good, but not spectacular-by-his-standards season in 2018-19—winning 37 races and finishing third behind Ernst Oertel and Satish Seemar—and appears keenly focused to set out for lucky number seven in 2019-20.
“I’m really looking forward to it and I always do, but this year we have some excellent returning older horses and some good young ones,” Watson said.
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, patron of the Jebel Ali Racecourse, will be represented by Laa Baas. The new Jebel Ali Stables partnership of Nicholas Bachalard and champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea will ride luck on Laa Baas to make their debut cheerful.
“It’s a new yard and new season for me, my weight is good and I feel great,” said O’Shea.
“I’ve been very lucky to ride for some tremendous owners and trainers and I approach it without any goals, really. First and foremost, I want to stay in one piece and then I’d like to ride in as many races as I can, he added.
A septet of races have been upgraded for the 2019-2020 season at Meydan Racecourse, including six during the Dubai World Cup Carnival, which commences on Jan.2, 2020.
The honour roll of newly blacktype fixtures starts on opening night with the $175,000 Dubai Racing Club Classic, which will be over 2410m on turf and a chance for both stayers and middle-distance turf horses to commence their seasons, as well as the $175,000 Meydan Challenge over 1400m on turf.
Two weeks later, middle-distance turf runners will once again have a chance to shine in the $175,000 Zabeel Turf over 2000m, a race around one turn with a 1000m (five-furlong) straight into the lone, sweeping bend. Turf sprinters line up in the $175,000 Dubai Dash over 1000m on week four, Jan.23, while stayers once again take the attention with the $175,000 Meydan Cup one week later over 2180m. Finally, printers stretch out one furlong in the $175,000 Dubai Sprint over 1200m on the sixth week, Feb.8.
All upgraded Dubai World Cup Carnival races will have natural progressions into Dubai World Cup night races, while most set up nicely for a run on Super Saturday, March. 7. They will all be contested over handicap conditions with a base rating of 95.
Furthermore, the seventh and final upgraded race is for the Purebred Arabians, the 1900m Madjani Stakes on Dec.19, which is now Listed.
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