Meydan Racecourse clicks into gear tonight when it hosts the Mazrat Al Ruwayah, the first Group race of the season for the flagship UAE course.
Nine purebred Arabians line up to chase the Dh150,000 purse on offer in the Group 2 mile contest, including last year's first and second Af Alghabra and her old sparring partner Kandar Du Falgas.
Neither hit their straps for the prep race staged at Meydan two weeks ago when Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed's Dariya held off stablemate Thakif by just under four lengths for the Emirati trainer Majed Al Jahouri.
Af Alghabra was third, while Kandar Du Falgas was fifth, although both are expected to strip fitter for tonight's assignment.
"That was her first run of the season and she was entitled to need it," said Tadhg O'Shea, who rides Af Alghabra. "She is seven now and improved from her first run to win this last year and hopefully she can go close this year but it looks a strong renewal."
The in-form Paul Hanagan has chosen Doug Watson's Kandar Du Falgas, the 2010 winner, as stablemate Quite A Show, also owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, has to carry a penalty. The six year old prevailed in the Group 1 Liwa Oasis in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, beating Af Alghabra into third by almost four lengths and as a result has to carry 58.5kg to Af Alghabra's 53.5kg, a difference of 3kg from March.
"Both of mine are working well enough, but it looks a good race and that penalty makes it tricky for Quite A Show so Paul looks to be on our best hope," Watson said. "He was perhaps a bit disappointing in the prep but he was giving weight away and we have freshened him up.
"This has been the target and he owes us nothing having been great for the yard over the years."
Al Jahouri flies the flag once again for Abu Dhabi by saddling three others alongside Dariya, who will be ridden by Ahmed Ajtebi.
Al Jahouri, a former endurance rider who has Areem, the Dubai Kahayla Classic hopeful, at his Al Wathba stables, runs Rakha, who will be partnered by Royston Ffrench.
Thakif is the mount of Harry Bentley and Wayne Smith will ride Nassem.
The field is completed by Time Out, owned by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, and Sahib Du Clos, another to carry a Group 1 penalty.
The Mazrat Al Ruwayah is the feature race on a six-race card.
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