Tapeta-trained horses finally came into their own at Jebel Ali yesterday, with four of five thoroughbred winners traveling from the Nad al Sheba training track. The meet, which saw the UAE's seven-time champion jockey Ted Durcan make a winning seasonal debut, had been dominated by dirt-trained runners until yesterday. Doug Watson, the champion trainer who bagged four winners last time, Dhruba Selvaratnam and Rashid Bouresly met their match when Nad al Sheba handler, Ali Rashid al Raihe, claimed three victories and Tony Manuel took the last race. Trainers based at the new Tapeta training track had warned their horses may be less advanced in fitness terms than those trained on dirt. If yesterday's form was anything to go by, however, the tapeta-trained runners have well and truly caught up.
Watson, who until yesterday had won every opening race at Jebel Ali this season, was denied that privilege. Instead Bakhit al Ketbi took the track's first Arabian race of the year with Hussain Mohammed's Das Jalabi for jockey, Martin O'Callaghan. Al Raihe and stable jockey, Royston Ffrench, claimed the first win when they struck gold in the Arabian Scandinavian Insurance Maiden over six furlongs with Mohammed al Falasi's AB Include. He won by a neck from Tony Manuel's Amigo de Park under Richard Mullen. "He was third over seven furlongs and fifth over eight-and-a-half before that so he was improving," said al Raihe. "Last year he was only two years old and needed the year to grow up and get some experience. Now I will think about trying him over a mile." A break in proceedings saw a troop of traditional Emirati dancers take to the paddock and al Raihe joined in. The trainer's high spirits continued when he landed the Dh120,000 feature, the six furlong Shadwell Stables Conditions race, with Montpellier. Montpellier had won over course and distance two weeks ago under Ahmed Ajtebi, but was disqualified after veering suddenly into the path of another runner. Ffrench said the gelding had needed that run. "He was tired and they can hang a bit at the end of a race," he said. "He's a fitter horse this time and deserved that win." Ffrench was first past the post for the third time on Jet Express in the Al Shafar Group an hour later. "He's a likely Carnival horse," said al Raihe. "It has been a very good day for Grand Stand Stables."
The St Leger-winning jockey, Durcan, was wreathed in smiles when he rode talented mare, Princess Rose Anne, to victory in the Al Shafar Investment Sprint for Al Ain-based handler, Mohammed Ramadan. The daughter of Danehill Dancer has now won on a multitude of surfaces including snow at Saint Moritz. "I have come second in thoroughbred races before but this is my first winner," said Ramadan. The Blue Stables trainer, Manuel, claimed a first win this season with Noisy Silence in the day's longest contest, the nine-furlong Power Point handicap. Richard Thomas guided the son of Giant's Causeway over the line ahead of al Raihe's Otranto in second and Erwan Charpy's Mutajammel in third. Watson may not have had a winner but he should not have returned to Al Quoz disappointed after claiming three seconds and two thirds. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org