Muntazah spearheads Doug Watson's charge in the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan National Day Cup
Watson also runs GK Chesterton, a former Godolphin horse, and Shamaal Nibras, the 2016 runner-up in the National Day Cup
Muntazah heads the trio of runners trained by UAE champion trainer Doug Watson in the Listed Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan National Day Cup in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The five-year-old gelding by Dubawi is returning to the track where he enjoyed his first success in three local starts when winning the President’s Cup last March. He followed that up with second place behind Heavy Metal in the US$1 million (Dh3.6m) Godolphin Mile at the Dubai World Cup at Meydan four weeks later.
While fancying his chances, Watson believes Muntazah’s first outing of the season will have him primed for the Dubai World Cup Carnival with the first of 10 meetings to be held on January 3 at Dubai's flagship racecourse.
“He won in the capital last season before an excellent run in the Godolphin Mile, and trained on well,” said the Red Stables trainer.
“It is five weeks until the first round of the [Group 2] Al Maktoum Challenge, which will be his first Carnival target.”
Watson also runs GK Chesterton, a former Godolphin horse, and Shamaal Nibras, the 2016 runner-up in the National Day Cup.
Both are returning to the track with a run under their belt already this season. Shamaal Nibras finished third in his race while GK Chesterton was way down the field but Watson believes they are both well set to challenge for Sunday’s prize.
The Listed race over the 1,600-metre distance has drawn the maximum field of 16 and looks to be a competitive contest with the 2015 winner Forjatt and last year’s runner-up Sharpalo lining up.
Forjatt is bidding to become only the third horse after Emirates Gold (2007/2008) and Jaasoos (2009/10) to win multiple National Day Cups.
Chris Hayes was on board Forjatt in his victory in 2015 and will again be on-board the 10-year-old gelding for trainer Nicholas Bachalard, who is in his first season as Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid’s retained trainer at Jebel Ali Stables.
“This was the first real target for him,” Bachalard said. “He has been a great servant to the owner and yard over many years, having also won two Jebel Ali Miles, as well as one HH The President's Cup.
The Group 3 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan National Day Cup for thoroughbreds is also part of Sunday's six-race card at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and has also drawn the maximum 16 runners.
Eric Lemartinel, the joint-leading trainer this season with Satish Seemar with 12 winners apiece, has four entered including last year’s winner Darius Du Paon.
Surprisingly, stable jockey Pat Cosgrave has opted to ride Mawahib instead.
She has run two eye-catching races to finish fourth in the Dh5 million Group 1 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown over the course and distance, and runner-up in the Group 2 Baniyas at Meydan this campaign.
Mawahib is drawn in Gate 3 and is seeking her sixth career victory, second on turf, and clearly arrives in good form.
Of her challengers, Rmmas, the Jean de Roualle-trained horse, looks a contender.
Although he finished seventh in the Jewel Crown, Rmmas looked impressive in winning the Group 2 Liwa Oasis on his final start of last season in Abu Dhabi.
Updated: December 9, 2018 08:16 AM