DUBAI // Runners from Mike de Kock's yard make their seasonal debut at Jebel Ali today, a race meeting which also sees the UAE return of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's premier jockey Richard Hills. Jebel Ali kicks off a busy three-day race weekend with Sharjah and Abu Dhabi hosting meetings on Saturday and Sunday following the Christmas and New Year break.
De Kock saddles two new recruits in the first race, the Argentinean-bred three-year-olds, Boss Professor and Jodi. South African Kevin Shea, runner-up to Frankie Dettori in the Dubai International Racing Carnival championship for the last two years, partners the filly, Jodi, who has shown potential on her outings in Argentina. Both horses are owned by Mohammed Jaber Abdullah and take on former Godolphin pair, Izaaj and Marine Spirit, now with Mubarak bin Shafya, in the six furlong Dh75,000 Serve U Management Conditions race.
Xavier Ziani and Willie Supple take the rides on the duo, who are owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed and Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed respectively. The hopefully named Exceedingly Fast takes to the track for Satish Seemar under Richard Mullen and the filly will be expected to have come on from her last run in second over the same trip last month. The feature race, the Dh120,000 Shadwell Farm Conditions over seven furlongs looks to be an interesting prospect.
Doug Watson, due another win at Jebel Ali following his victory with Hammadi in the concluding race of 2009 is well represented with three useful performers. Highest-rated of those is War Monger, one of five Sheikh Hamdan-owned contenders. He has good form in the US but gets his first start today in more than a year. Tadhg O'Shea partners him while, interestingly, Sheikh Hamdan's first jockey, Richard Hills, has opted for the Ali Rashid al Raihe-trained, Aamaaq.
A winner over course and distance last time, Aamaaq's form looks strong, beating Estihdaaf, a previous winner at Jebel Ali who also runs in today's race. Daragh O'Donohoe takes the ride on Watson's Carnival runner, Green Coast and the jockey is confident his horse will be in the mix at the finish, having run a very good second over a furlong less on his last outing. "I have some nice rides this weekend, but I'm really looking forward to Green Coast," he said, adding that the step up in trip should suit the horse.
"He showed what a good horse he is last time and I'm very lucky to have kept the ride on him. "He's a horse who is working really well at home and if I'm not a bad judge then he's going to be there or thereabouts." Watson, who started the season with a flurry of winners at Jebel Ali, had a quieter period in the run-up to Christmas and O'Donohoe says Red Stables charges are coming into some excellent form.
"The horses are looking and feeling very well," said the jockey. "They are knocking on the door and all look like real live chances." Barbecue Eddie, a consistent runner for Watson completes his trio with Richard Mullen in the leathers. Though he has five runners, Sheikh Hamdan may not have it all his own way. Dhruba Selvaratnam's Otaared displayed class when winning at Jebel Ali in November and though the Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid-owned five-year-old managed only third last time, he could bounce back if he can handle his top weight. William Buick takes the ride for the home team. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org