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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Empoli takes thoroughbred race in Abu Dhabi ahead of Ostaad 'in the nick of time'

Dobbs negotiates heavy traffic to get first win for seven year old under Watson's charge

Empoli, ridden by Patrick Dobbs, wins the Al Khubairah Handicap at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Empoli, ridden by Patrick Dobbs, wins the Al Khubairah Handicap at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Empoli made his first visit to Abu Dhabi a winning one for his new handler, the UAE champion trainer Doug Watson.

Ridden by stable jockey Pat Dobbs, the German-bred seven-year-old gelded son of Halling pipped stablemate Ostaad by a short head to take the solitary prize for thoroughbreds in the six-race card meeting in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Patrick Cosgrave on Ostaad looked as if he had done enough to claim victory, but Dobbs staged a late run to see Empoli win by the narrowest of margins.

“It was a good effort from a horse coming in to a race [for the first time] in more than a year,” said Dobbs, who also rode three winners at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday.

“There was a lot of pace in the race. They went quick to the first bend and I had to keep him somewhere in the middle for a good part of the [2,200-metre] trip.

“I had to negotiate some traffic at the final bend but once we got to the clear on the home stretch he just took off, and fortunately had enough ground to move into the front in the nick of time.”

Empoli ran twice at Meydan in 2014, finishing second and then fourth behind the Japanese raider Gentildona in the Dubai Seema Classic. From there, he went on to claim his second career victory and only Group 1 win in Cologne in September that year.

Watson wasn’t at the capital's racetrack to see his charge win but on this form he will surely be aimed at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

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Doug Watson pays tribute to 'great team' after crossing 500 career wins at Meydan

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There were winners across the board at Abu Dhabi’s third meeting of the season with the six races were shared by six trainers and jockeys.

Dane O’Neill steered Al Tiryaq four lengths clear of Hawafez, with Gerald Avranche atop, to take the opener for Emirati trainer Abdullah Al Hammadi’s first winner of the season.

Richard Mullen, the UAE champion jockey, provided another Emirati trainer, Ahmed Al Mehairbi, with a first winner of the campaign after guiding Fahadd to victory half-hour later.

The winner veered to his right, and then to his left and right gain, before flashing past the post half-a-length ahead of RB Burning Ash under Tadhg O’Shea and the Cosgrave-ridden Dassan Da, who may have been a bit unlucky when Fahadd took his ground.

“He made hard work in what could have been an easy victory. When he got there [in front] he wandered around a bit but he’s a nice horse,” Mullen said of the five-year-old bay Fahadd.

Jesus Rosales on the Eric Lemartinel-trained Jaahiz won the next race in thrilling fashion, narrowly holding on for victory ahead of Injazz under Omani jockey Anas Al Siyabi and Goshawke ridden by Fernando Jara.

It was Antonio Fresu’s turn next. The Italian made all of the running on the Ernst Oertel-trained AF Al Jahed to win from Dhamin and Molahen El Alhan.

Cosgrave drew some consolation when he steered Shivan OA, trained by Helal Al Alawi, to a convincing four-length win over ES Maydan in the concluding Wathba Stallions Cup.