x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Jebel Ali set to host UAE season opener

Friday brings first of 11 meetings at racecourse

Roicead is one of five horses entered by Dhruba Selvaratnam today at the Jebel Ali racecourse. PA Sport
Roicead is one of five horses entered by Dhruba Selvaratnam today at the Jebel Ali racecourse. PA Sport

When Dhruba Selvaratnam travelled from Ireland to Dubai to establish a horse racing operation for Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he was leaving an established racing scene to join one that did not yet exist.

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Move ahead 23 years and the Jebel Ali racecourse is one of the premier racing hubs in the UAE, and it will host this season’s curtain raiser meeting, the first of the 11 at the venue.

Selvaratnam was born in Sri Lanka but holds an Irish passport, and he said: “Sheikh Ahmed took me out, showed me some land that was basically two massive sand dunes. He told me to build a racetrack that’s the equivalent of Epsom, the home of the English Derby.

“The rest is history, as they say. The racing in the UAE is now on par with the best on the international circuit.”

Selvaratnam, who worked as an assistant to legendary trainers Ian Balding and Vincent O’Brien before arriving in Dubai in 1990, has five entered in Friday’s six-race card, three in the silks of his main patron Sheikh Ahmed, and the other two for Khalifa bin Dasmal and Roicead for Michael Gerard Daly in the featured third race.

Roicead heads the weights in the eight-runner handicap rated 85-105 over the minimum trip of 1,000m.

The six-year-old gelded son of Giant’s Causeway could only finish seventh in a 15-runner handicap behind stable companion Forjatt in his only start in the UAE last March.

Roicead arrived in Dubai last season with four career victories in 17 starts in Ireland and returns to the track after spending the summer with sunshine on his back.

Musabah Al Muahiri has three in the race with Kanaf and Muarrab, both in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, and Firestreak.

Kanaf is the choice of Dane O’Neill, the owner’s retained jockey, which leaves the stable jockey Wayne Smith to ride the owner’s second runner.

Doug Watson saddles Oasis Dancer and Satish Seemar has the 2011 winner of the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint lined up for a share of the Dh110,000 prize.

apassela@thenational.ae

The National selections

2.15pm Calabash Cove – Market To Market

2.45pm Qannaas – Henry Clay

3.45pm Roicead – Oasis Dancer

4.15pm Daar Rashid – Bravo Youmzain

4.45pm Rafeej – Penniston Line

5.15pm Momaris – Colourful Score