After a quiet start, Ali Rashid al Raihe got off the mark in fine style last night, winning both of the big-money races at Meydan Racecourse yesterday.
Aamaaq claimed the Dh80,000 Emirates Holidays over a mile in the evening's feature race, and just 30 minutes later Rochdale won the 9-furlong Emirates Airline, also worth Dh80,000.
Al Raihe, the top trainer last year, drew a blank at the two opening meets of the season, at Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi, while Doug Watson, the runner-up last season, saddled two winners.
But al Raihe now joins him at the top of the table, alongside Satish Seemar who also claimed a double last night.
Al Raihe had been cautiously confident the day before the meeting, calling Rochdale and Aamaaq the "lifeblood" of his stable. The two demonstrated their value by romping to victory under Royston Ffrench and Richard Hills.
Aamaaq's owner, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, was also said to have been confident prior to the race. Ali al Muhairi, the racing manager for Sheikh Hamdan, said he "felt Aamaaq was his favourite to win [last night]. He is a good horse who won last season and he is coming into this race very fit".
Aamaaq dug in on the home straight and did enough to finish more than a length in front of the second-placed challenger, Dahteer, trained by Dhruba Selvaratnam.
Aamaaq had one previous run on a Tapeta surface, finishing ninth over a shorter trip last season.
"He seemed to handle the track very well this season," said al Raihe.
"I'm very pleased to get two winners and I hope that we can build from this night and keep our form in future races."
Seemar hit the jackpot with Saudi Summer in the Skywards Maiden over seven furlongs, and again with Reynaldothewizard in the Emirates Sky Cargo.
Seemar, who endured a quiet season last term, has his charges in fine form this time, having already claimed a win at Jebel Ali's season-opener with My Verse.
"Sometimes they can just take a little while to settle," Seemar said. "I'm very pleased that they are starting to show their form. They also took a little time to adjust to Tapeta and I hope these horses can go on to more good results now."
Harry Bentley, a new arrival to UAE racing, rode Reynaldothewizard to victory.
Bentley, an apprentice attached to Gary Moore's yard while in the UK, is riding for Seemar during the English off-season and may have picked up some tips from Moore's son Ryan, a Derby and Oaks-winning jockey.
The Arabian trainer Gillian Duffield, who holds the distinction of winning the first race at Meydan Racecourse last season, was unable to strike a blow last night.
The result was no surprise to Duffield, however, who is the reigning Arabian champion trainer. She suggested her charges, Jawass and Estiqraar, would need the run before the race and her prediction proved spot-on.
1. Wolgan Valley Handicap
2. Skywards Maiden
3. Arabian Adventures
4. Emirates Sky Cargo Handicap
5. Emirates Holidays Handicap
6. Emirates Airline Handicap