With five meetings of the season left, including the Dubai World Cup on March 30, the battle for the UAE jockey and trainer's championship is intensifying.
Richard Mullen has emerged as the new challenger to Tadhg O'Shea's crown in the jockey's championship while Ernst Oertel holds has one winner more than the reigning trainer's champion Ali Rashid Al Raihe.
O'Shea on 27 winners leads Mullen by three as they resume their battle for the jockey's title on Thursday at the last Meydan meeting before the World Cup. It is the first of the three meetings over the weekend.
Backstage Tour, formerly trained by Mahmoud Al Zarooni for Godolphin in the United Kingdom stable, looks O'Shea's best chance of extending his lead over Mullen.
The Manduro colt now trained by Abdullah bin Huzaim in Dubai was an impressive winner on his UAE debut at Jebel Ali last week. O'Shea, who won on him, keeps the ride.
Mullen has an opportunity to close the gap on Baransky and Dubai Iconic in the next two races. They are both trained by Satish Seemar and come in to the race having won their last starts.
Dubai Iconic has been dropped on his trip for the first time, having won twice over 1,400m.
"He travels strongly and was not really getting home over 1,600m when we tried but won well back at 1,400m last time," Mullen said. "After that we thought he would be worth a try over 1,200m."
Doug Watson has a strong hand in the 2,200m feature where he has three entries from the 12 declared runners. Paul Hanagan rides Udabaa, a course and distance winner on his penultimate start, for his main employer, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid; Pat Dobbs is on Dr Faustus, and Mantoba is ridden by Dane O'Neill.
"They have run some good races between them this season," Watson said. "This looks the ideal final race of the season for them as they are not likely to go to Jebel Ali next week. I just hope all three can run well in a competitive little race."
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