x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Not playing the numbers game

Doug Watson has for the time-being shelved his thoughts of his trainer's title defence as he goes for quality more than quantity in the new season.

ABU DHABI // Doug Watson has for the time-being shelved his thoughts of his trainer's title defence as he goes for quality more than quantity in the new season. His prime target is a raid on the Dubai Carnival. The Red Stables trainer has 80 horses in training with another 20 set to arrive in time for the carnival for his principal owners Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Malih al Basti.

"We had some good horses last season and winning the trainer's title was the result of an excellent team effort," said the American. "The team worked hard all the year round and this title is a testament to the people that work at the stables. I'm so happy for them. "This time, we are going for quality more than quantity, particularly a stable like us, one of the bigger yards. The trainer's title may come later on and if it does, then it will be another plus for the excellent team we have in place here."

Barbecue Eddie, fourth in the Golden Shaheen sprint on the Dubai World Cup night, is one of the high-profile names that have come under his care after being privately purchased from Sheikh Hamdan. Masaalak is another of Sheikh Hamdan's horses to cross over from Marcus Tregoning's yard in the UK, and with some purchases from Basti that include Shopton Lane and Weald, and another American sprinter Force Freeze for Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi.

Watson will also have the services of Fernando Jara, the Dubai World Cup and Breeder's Cup winning jockey on Sheikh Hamdan owned Invasor. "Fernando has had some misfortune after a shoulder injury and probably needs a change of luck. "He will be a useful addition with Sheikh Hamdan's retained jockey Richard Hills, along with Daragh O'Donohoe and Gaven Birrer, both of whom have ridden a lot for the stables."

Watson was off the mark on Thursday's opening race meeting when O'Donohoe making every yard of the running on Lucky Ray to claim the final race on the Nad Al Sheba card. "It's always a nice feeling to get off the mark on the opening night and we have some nice older horses to carry on our campaign in the domestic season. But the first thing in my mind is to keep the horses sound and perform a little better in the carnival."

The Purebred Arabians are the same as last season with Paris Gagner, Kandar Du Falgas, Al Jalfane and Nirwan aimed at the Pattern races. Watson didn't want to disclose the top 10 horses to follow. He said, "At this point of time it is hard to say with 20 more horses still to arrive. Most of them have been in training from wherever they are and they'll be ready to run no sooner they are here." Some of them the trainer mentioned are Mutamarres, Mutasallil, Force Freeze, Barbecue Eddie, Masaalak, Tajdeer, Shopton Lane and Dynamic Saint.

Watson arrived in Dubai 14 years ago to work with Satish Seemar, who had not long embarked on his training career at Zabeel Stables. He moved on to become assistant trainer to fellow American Kiaran McLaughlin over at Red Stables. And awarded the licence in 2003 and won the first of his two trainer's titles three years later. apassela@thenational.ae