DUBAI // Doug Watson is bringing out one of his big guns for Meydan Racecourse's fourth meeting of the season tonight when Green Coast, his World Cup-day runner, takes to the track.
Green Coast impressed when coming a one-length second to Calming Influence in the US$1million (Dh 3.6m) Group 2 Godolphin Mile last season.
He now goes in one of tonight's Dh110,000 contests, the mile-long Al Dana Wealth Management, and his jockey, Tadhg O'Shea, is hoping for a strong showing.
"We took him to Meydan a week ago and gave him some work on the Tapeta," said O'Shea, who was also in the irons for the Godolphin Mile in March. The runner is normally trained on dirt at Watson's Al Quoz-based Red Stable and the handler would have wanted to give him a Tapeta outing prior to his first race.
"He went really well," said O'Shea, whose main job is as the second rider for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid. "He loves the place, he seems fit and fresh and Doug is happy with him. We'll be expecting him to improve after his first race, but we are hoping for a good run from him."
The trainer agreed. "This isn't his final plan," Watson said. "If he goes well we will aim for the first leg of the Maktoum Challenge and we'll take it from there."
Green Coast takes on the top-weighted Jet Express from the champion trainer Ali al Raihe's stable. Ridden by Royston Ffrench, the Dubai Duty Free-winning jockey, Jet Express was also a runner in the Godolphin Mile, though he failed to strike a blow, finishing last.
Normally a consistent runner with excellent dirt form, Jet Express was a four-time winner at Jebel Ali last season.
Al Raihe's best hope in this race may come from Aamaaq, already a winner at Meydan this season, who, as a horse belonging to Sheikh Hamdan, is ridden by Richard Hills, the owner's first jockey, .
Dhruba Selvaratnam claimed a win last week at Meydan with the filly Alo Pura and he is hoping Laa Rayb, another making a seasonal debut, can keep him in winning ways.
Selvaratnam also saddles Carnival winner Kal Barg in another of the night's big-money contests the 1,900m CBD World Mastercard conditions race.
"He did well on his first outing last month and I expect him to have come on from that," said the handler, whose charge was second over a half furlong further in November.
Heading the weights is yet another Sheikh Hamdan-owned and al Raihe-trained hope, Monte Alto.
Hills once again takes the ride. "He definitely has a chance," said the trainer.
Monte Alto won the Abu Dhabi Championship last season after three second-place efforts at Meydan, and he could be ripe to claim his first win at the new racecourse.
"He is not 100 per cent of what he can be yet but we know he has a chance and we are expecting a good run," al Raihe said.