Ali Rashid Al Raihe’s three-year hold on the UAE trainer’s championship was ended by Ernst Oertel in a dramatic finish last season.
The Emirati fell three winners short of the South African to finish third in the trainer’s race.
Al Raihe has made a strong start to the new season by saddling a double in the season’s first meeting, at Jebel Ali. And he is well represented in all six races at Meydan’s opener tonight.
“My objective is to saddle as many winners as possible and if that comes with a trainer’s title, it is well and truly good,” Al Raihe said. “If not, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.”
The Grandstand Stables trainer has 65 horses in his keeping, with a few more to arrive in time for the Dubai World Cup Carnival from January 9.
“We have some pretty decent entries at Meydan, and are hopeful they all run well in their first starts in the season,” he said.
The two valuable handicaps, the fourth and fifth races, for Dh105,000 each, highlight Meydan’s opening meeting. Al Raihe has Nawwar over the 1,600-metre distance, and Ukrainian in the trip over 2,000m, both ridden by the stable jockey Royston Ffrench.
“They have both run consistently well last season. Nawwar and Ukrainian have won a race each and were not beaten too far in their other starts,” the trainer said.
Tadhg O’Shea, the UAE champion jockey, rides Midnight Moon for the trainer Abdullah bin Huzaim. The five-year-old finished last season in great form, winning twice, once at tonight’s course and distance. He won over 2,200m when chased home by Ukrainian.
“I won on him last year,” O’Shea said. “He was progressing nicely then and hopefully has continued to do so but this would be his toughest task to date.”
Kaiss, one of two in the race for trainer Satish Seemar, heads the weights.
The apprentice Marc Monaghan, who won on the horse last season over 1200m, rides again with the stable jockey Richard Mullen astride Antinori.
“Kaiss has a lot of weight and is not the biggest horse so it makes sense to utilise Marc’s claim on him,” Mullen said. “He is a horse we have always liked a lot and is very versatile with regards both surface and distance.
“Antinori always works well but we just need things to fall into place in a race with him. He looks well treated in the weights and hopefully he can be competitive in a tough race.”
Busker finished the last season by winning his last two races, including over course and distance, and will be hoping to complete the hat trick for Mubarak bin Shafya.
6.30pm Emirates Sky Cargo Maiden, 1,400m.
7.05pm Emirates Holidays Handicap (rated 55-60), 1,400m.
7.40pm Arabian Adventures Handicap (72-86), 1,200m.
8.15pm Emirates Airline Handicap (82-96), 1,600m.
8.50pm Emirates Airline Handicap (82-96), 2,000m.
9.25pm Emirates Skywards Handicap (66-76), 1,900m.