Racing fans were licking their lips in anticipation when Warmonger arrived in the UAE last year with a reputation with being able to mix it with the very best. But he could not settle down enough for Doug Watson to get a chance to run him - the champion trainer's only regret from a season filled with victories. Now, as a fresh season begins, Watson is looking to the five-year-old son of War Chant to do something special for the Red Stables when he does take to the track.
"We never got to run Warmonger and he was the best," says Watson of the horse who was third by one-and-a-quarter lengths in the US Grade One, Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes at Keeneland in 2008. "We were thinking of him for the Dubai Duty Free last season and now, after having the summer off, we have taken him right back to the beginning and we are going to build him back up for racing." Barbecue Eddie, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's sprinter, is also a big hope for the coming season. Fourth by five lengths to Benny the Bull in the 2008 Dubai Golden Shaheen, the horse, a gelded son of Stormy Atlantic, was unable to recapture that form last year on the Nad al Sheba's dirt surface. "We think he will do better on the new synthetic track because he's more of a turf horse," says Watson. "We don't know for sure what the surface will be yet, but if it's tapeta [a kind of synthetic surface] like the training track they already have there, then it is a surface that we think he will go better on.
"He is a talented horse but he's not big and strong and it's normally the more physical horses that pull themselves through the dirt quicker." Another Sheikh Hamdan horse, Kalahari Gold, a close third to Mike de Kock's now-retired Archipenko in the Group Three Zabeel Mile, may emulate the 2008 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup-winner and go to Hong Kong in December. "We don't know at this stage," says Watson. "I will speak to Sheikh Hamdan closer to the time and if all is well we could consider the Hong Kong Mile. It's a shame there won't really be races for him before then so it depends on what he shows us at home."
Aqraam, who ran fourth to the 2008 Dubai World Cup winner Curlin in that year's preparatory race, the Jaguar Trophy, suffered with sore shins in 2009. He managed two fourth places in handicaps, but he seems to be on target for this year, says Watson. "He probably wants a bit of cut in the ground," says Watson. "But he does have some ability and this year we will find out how much." Watson also maintains a small string of talented purebred Arabians, also owned by Sheikh Hamdan, such as the President's Cup-winner Nirwan, Dubai Kayahla Classic third, Paris Gagner, and Al Maktoum Challenge Round One winner, Kandar du Falgas.