Erwan Charpy is relishing the chance to re-establish his traditional dominance of Jebel Ali racetrack's biggest races this season. The Frenchman has been master of the Green Stables at Nad al Sheba for 16 years and has always claimed his fair share of winners on the dirt at Dubai's oldest track - especially when it comes to the high-profile Jebel Ali Stakes.
Charpy has won it twice in the past three years, in 2006 and 2008, and is aiming for victory this time around with Rampallion, who also came home first in 2008. It will be a tough ask as the horse, a son of Daylami and owned by Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed, has had little racing recently and a tilt at the Jebel Ali Stakes may turn out to be his only outing at the track. "The plan is to have another go at the Jebel Ali Stakes," said Charpy as he watched Rampallion trot round Green Stables' dirt warm-up track.
"Rampallion is a very nice horse and I have a lot of respect for him, but he doesn't have much racing in him so we manage his season carefully," added the trainer, who was UAE champion in the 2000/2001 season and is a consistent top-five finisher. "He may only race once in fact. The race has been moved from December to January this year, so that changes how we will prepare him; we will keep an eye on him."
After winning the listed Jebel Ali Mile by a short head with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed's Golden Arrow under O'Shea last season, Charpy would love to capture the third major Jebel Ali race, the Jebel Ali Sprint, this time. Like many Nad al Sheba-based trainers, Charpy is adjusting his early-season plan to work in the unknown factor of the new training track at the site. The Tapeta surface, installed after Dubai World Cup-day last season, is the same as the one which has been laid at the under-construction Meydan facility. It is used daily for morning work and trainers are still deciding how to train on it.
"I'm in no rush to get them going too early this season," Charpy had warned before the season began. With his team of assistant trainer Patrick Baker and head man Justin Currant, Charpy oversees the progress of 72 Green Stables runners. "The new track is very different to the dirt that was there before and it is making me more conservative in my preparation. It's heavier and we'll need to take our time with it."
The caution is apparent as the early season unfolds. With the Tapeta-based horses going into fast work later, the first three Jebel Ali meets of the season have produced the best results for those who prepare their horses on dirt. Doug Watson's string seems all but untouchable at the moment. He and Rashid Bouresly are both stationed at Al Quoz while Dhruba Selvaratnam, who is also enjoying early success, is based at the Jebel Ali track and Rod Simpson trains on dirt just outside Abu Dhabi.
It is normal that horses progress at different rates and Charpy makes allowances for varying fitness levels. As they circled before leaving the yard for the track, the trainer picked out a few who are to trot or hack only, and others who will get faster work. "They just come on at different speeds," he says. "I have some horses I can use as markers. I know they progress quickly or slowly and I can gauge how the others are doing in comparison."
Many of Charpy's stars from previous seasons were in evidence at morning work as well as new additions. Singing Poet was there and will be campaigned this season, Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed's double National Day Cup-winner, Emirates Gold, looked as good as ever and will probably attempt to dominate the race again this year while the President's Cup-winner, Grantley Adams, owned by Sheikh Saeed bin Mohammed, will also be targeted at December's Listed races.
Rosberg, Charpy's fifth-placed runner in the Group Two Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup day, is now in the US with new owners. Coming the other way, though, are three two-year-olds to add to two others from England that have been sent to Charpy from the Breeze-up Sales by Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed. "I have older horses in the stable and they are very good horses, but it's nice to have youngsters as well," says Charpy.
Charpy is also looking forward to seeing how Omnicat, an undoubtedly-talented son of Storm Cat, performs when he finally gets to the track. At four, he is still a maiden. He almost romped to victory at Doncaster in 2007 before inexplicably hanging left and veering sharply right inside the final furlong and unseating his jockey. He has not raced since. "He's an interesting one," says Charpy. @Email:email@example.com