The winner of last season's Group Two Zabeel Mile will give the trainer a clearer idea of which World Cup night race to participate in following the six-furlong duel today.
Shea's hopes ride on Imbongi at Jebel Ali
DUBAI // All eyes will be on Imbongi - who finished third in the Dubai Duty Free - when Mike de Kock sends out his six-year-old in the Conditions Contest at Jebel Ali this afternoon.
The winner of last season's Group Two Zabeel Mile will be piloted by Kevin Shea, and de Kock, the trainer, is likely to have a clearer idea of which World Cup night race Imbongi should run following the six-furlong duel today.
Shea, who flew in from South Africa on Tuesday morning for his ninth season in Dubai, rode two horses for de Kock at Meydan Racecourse yesterday, winning the Meydan Freezone.
He has fond memories of his campaign in the emirate last season, when he rode Lizard's Desire to second place in the Dubai World Cup. Shea also won the Singapore Cup with the same horse.
"It's great to be back," Shea said. "I had a fantastic season in Dubai last time and if this season goes along the same lines then I'll be delighted. We have some exciting horses in the yard and we just can't wait to get going."
Imbongi is one Shea has high hopes for. He is by far the highest-rated competitor in today's race but Shea feels he would benefit from a run over a longer trip.
"It's a bit on the sharp side for him but he needs to get out and have a gallop," Shea said. "It will let the boss know where he is in his training and will be a good sharpener for him."
Contesting the Dh110,000 prize pot with Imbongi today are some familiar foes.
Mannjal, a course specialist who is trained by Dhruba Selvaratnam, will be a danger under William Buick, while Terrific Challenge, Satish Seemar's listed Jebel Ali Sprint winner last season, will also be a contender.
He holds winning form over today's rivals, Alsadeek and Hammadi from Doug Watson's yard and Montpellier from Ali Rashid al Raihe's stable. Seemar's horses are in good form this season but Alsadeek could be a danger after recording a six-length win at Jebel Ali on his seasonal debut in November.
The Jebel Ali Stakes prep race is likely to be a closely run contest.
Al Raihe's Jet Express, who won the Jebel Ali Mile last season, will be looking to improve on his fourth-place finish on his last outing as he steps up to 1,800m.
Selvaratnam's Meeriss, who was third last time out, also has potential for improvement.
Erwan Charpy has an excellent record in the Jebel Ali Stakes, having won three of the last four renewals and he will be hoping Singing Poet can show well, while Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid is represented by Moiqen from Watson's yard and Haatheq from Al Raihe's Grandstand Stable.