x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Saeed bin Surror has faith in Khawlah

The Godolphin head trainer is confident his filly has sufficient fitness to challenge Mahbooba for the UAE Oaks at Meydan Racecourse.

Saeed bin Suroor, left, the Godolphin trainer, is confident Khawlah will not lack for fitness tonight despite a near four-month lay-off.
Saeed bin Suroor, left, the Godolphin trainer, is confident Khawlah will not lack for fitness tonight despite a near four-month lay-off.

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There is little that Saeed bin Suroor does not know about winning the UAE Oaks, the feature contest on a seven-race card at Meydan Racecourse tonight.

The Emirati trainer has been victorious in the fillies Classic on six occasions in the past 10 years, most recently in 2009 when sending out Devotee.

In contrast, Mike de Kock has saddled only one winner of the Oaks, last year's victor Raihana, but the South African handler's Mahbooba is the overwhelming favourite in the Group 3 contest, run over 1,900m on Tapeta for the second year running.

Bin Suroor lines up two fillies in a bid to prevent his main rival from scooping the US$250,000 (Dh918,000) first prize, but it will take all of his 15 years of experience as a trainer if he is to deprive De Kock of the spoils.

Abtasaamah was one of four of tonight's field left trailing behind Mahbooba, who is a dual Group 1 winner in South Africa, when she won the UAE 1,000 Guineas earlier this month.

It is reason enough for Frankie Dettori, Godolphin's stable jockey, to choose instead to ride Khawlah, who makes her first start since finishing third in the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket in October.

Despite the lay-off, however, bin Suroor is confident his charge will not lack for fitness.

"I know my filly," he said. "We have a Tapeta track at Al Quoz, like at Meydan. She's doing well at home at the moment and she's at the right distance."

Bin Suroor, who has nine horses entered at Meydan tonight, has sent out 104 winners at the Carnival since its inception in 2004, and yet, there are three horses under bin Suroor's wing which underline that even the best trainers endure frustrations.

Charlie's Moment, Bay Willow and Dear Bela will all carry the Royal blue Godolphin silks tonight. The trio were transferred to bin Suroor's care recently, and since entering the unfamiliar rhythms of the 42-year-old's regime they are yet to win.

Dear Bela was tailed off in 13th of 14 on her only start at Meydan two weeks ago, while Bay Willow has finished seventh in two handicaps, also in Dubai.

Charlie's Moment ran fourth after a lengthy lay-off under bin Suroor's name in the US in October, having previously won for Walter Solis in 2009.

"I may go to America two to three times a month," bin Suroor said, highlighting the logistical problems he faced with trying to train Charlie's Moment. "Bay Willow is doing well, though, and is in good form."

Bin Suroor may have to settle for second, or worse, behind De Kock tonight in the UAE Oaks but if any of his three acquisitions can win their races he will have stolen vital momentum ahead of next week's Super Thursday meeting.