Dubai // It was an evening for old equine favourites and promising young jockeys as racing returned to Meydan Racecourse with the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Rochdale winning the 2,000m handicap for a third year running - initiating a treble for the jockey Harry Bentley in the process.
Bentley, 20, is attached to the yard of the champion trainer Al Raihe for the first time this season and, having missed Jebel Ali last week when his boss saddled a double, he made a flying start to his campaign and was seen to great effect on Rochdale.
Happy to bide his time behind a generous early gallop, he pulled his mount out to challenge 400m from home and they powered home to the delight of the not inconsiderable Rochdale fan club.
The nine year old is a real favourite in the Al Raihe camp and Bentley said: "It is great to be given a chance by Mr Al Raihe and this is a great chance for me this season. To be put on such a stable stalwart as Rochdale is a real honour and I am delighted to have won on him."
The pair later combined to win the concluding 1,200m handicap with Garbah, a filly who won twice last season and looks highly progressive.
The pair hardly saw a rival after a quick start and Bentley, riding his third winner, added: "What a great start to the season - she was fast away and just kept going. Hopefully she can improve again."
The middle leg of the young jockey's treble was provided by the Doug Watson-trained Barbecue Eddie in the featured 1,600m conditions race, despite the pair being badly hampered early on.
The eight year old was registering his fifth course success but the first at the trip and Watson said: "I know he stays this far even though he was winning at 1,400m but I was a bit worried it might catch him out first time out.
"He is a genuine Carnival horse but I might run him over 1400m here in December."
The Irish apprentice Marc Monaghan was having his first ride in the UAE on Skycruiser who won the 1,400m handicap for the trainer Satish Seemar for the second year running.
"I could not have asked for a better start to my UAE career," Monaghan said, "and I just want to thank everybody for this exciting opportunity."
Seemar was completing a double, like Al Raihe, for the second time this season, after Dubai Iconic made a winning debut in the opening 1,400m maiden under stable jockey Richard Mullen, who said: "He has been working well so we were hopeful. It would be nice to think he has more to offer."
The other race, a 1,900m handicap, was won by Lion Sands, ridden by Jesus Rosales for Abdulla bin Huzaim.
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