Riding high on emotion, Shadwell trainers target glory at Meydan - GulfToday

Riding high on emotion, Shadwell trainers target glory at Meydan


Khaadem will represent famed blue-and-white silks of Sheikh Hamdan in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint.

Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor

It will be an emotional evening for Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s trainers and jockeys when they compete at the 25th running of the Dubai World Cup on Saturday, a year later than planned, after the meeting was lost to COVID-19 precautions in 2020.

One of the most influential figures in horse racing over the past 40 years, Sheikh Hamdan, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Finance Minister, died at the age of 75 on Wednesday.

Sheikh Hamdan was no stranger to success at the meeting, having won the Group 1 Dubai World Cup itself with Almutawakel in 1999 and Invasor in 2007. He has no representative in the feature race this time around, but five runners will carry his famed blue-and-white silks, under the livery of his Shadwell Racing banner, across three races in Saturday’s silver jubilee Dubai World Cup meeting.

He established Shadwell, a breeding empire, in 1981.

Sheikh Hamdan’s death triggered an outpouring of emotional tributes, with racing world expressing sorrow.

The Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic – the traditional Arabian showpiece – will kick start the nine-race card of a key highlight of the UAE sports calendar and one of the richest races of the world. In the opening race, multiple Group 1 winner Al Zahir, trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, will represent Shadwell.

Fifth in this race in 2018, he has been largely campaigned on turf since, including when sixth in the Group 1 President’s Cup at Abu Dhabi last month.

Trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, who termed Sheikh Hamdan’s death as losing one of the greatest patrons of the industry, believes Al Zahir has taken to dirt well and is confident of a good run from the 8-year-old Madjani entire.

Ridden by Jim Crowley, Al Zahir jumps from stall 3 and Rayhi said: “He has come to run on dirt after a long time, but he seems to be enjoying it and he has done well with his work heading into the race. Now it’s over to raceday and about him having a good day at the office.

“He has a good draw and if he jumps well and keeps pace with the rest, he should have a definite chance. We are looking forward to him running on Saturday, added the three-time UAE champion trainer.

Al Zahir faces formidable bunch of rivals, including Mubasher Al Khalediah and Mutawakel Al Khalediah, who were first and second respectively in the Obaiya Arabian Classic in Riyadh five weeks ago.

Crowley, who promises that late Sheikh Hamdan would always be in his heart for giving him the chance to ride top-class horses, also rides Khaadem, one of two Shadwell runners in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, over the straight six furlongs on turf.

Charlie Hills’ five-year-old has some top class form in the UK, including when fourth, beaten three lengths, in the G1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket when last seen in July. The winner of the prestigious Steward’s Cup at Goodwood in 2019, the Dark Angel entire is an exciting prospect here, and Hills plans to use this race to start off a hopefully profitable European campaign.

“We think he’s a very talented horse as he showed when he was fourth in two Group 1s last season,” said trainer Charlie Hills from his British base. “He lost weight after the July Cup and then the ground went against us later in the season.

“He went to Shadwell Stud for a break and thrived over the winter, he’s come back a lot heavier. This has been the plan since the end of last season, we knew he’d get his ground here, and hopefully he should have a good year.”

Another Shadwell representative Motafaawit, who used to be trained in the UK by Richard Hannon, takes his chance in this race for Doug Watson. A winner over five furlongs here two starts ago, he followed that up with a head second to the reopposing Final Song in the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint, and Watson is hopeful of another big run.

Watson is aware that saddling his runner will be emotional. “Obviously he is a Sheikh Hamdan horse and we are all still digesting the news of his death because he has always been a massive supporter of Red Stables, both myself and Kiaran McLaughlin before,” he said.

“It would mean so much to us all if we could win a race on the big night for Sheikh Hamdan and Motafaawit should have a chance. The Meydan straight track is ideal for him because he does not handle bends particularly well. They are going to go quick which will suit him and he should be finishing strongly off that strong gallop, added the said the six-time UAE Champion Trainer.

Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell also has two runners in the Group 1 Dubai Turf, over nine furlongs.

The first string is Eqtiraan, the mount of Crowley for Rayhi.  Rayhi sent out Eqtiraan for a final run on Thursday morning and reiterated he will be hoping his 7-year-old Helmet gelding, who was headed by Lord Glitters 200m out in Super Saturday’s Group 1 Jebel Hatta, can dictate the pace.

Rayhi, who won this race in 2010 with Al Shemali, said: “Honestly, we would have preferred if he drew an inner draw or somewhere in the middle. He has done well in training throughout the week and looks good and ready for the race. He’s been in good form, but he will have to break well and do the running.”

Eqtiraan’s rivals include the Musabbeh Al Mheiri-trained Zainhom, who won his spot here courtesy of a seven furlong Listed Carnival handicap win in February.

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