x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE racing season: The jockeys, trainers and tracks

The five jockeys and trainers to keep an eye out for as the new UAE horse racing season commences.

Five jockeys to watch

Tadhg O'Shea

It is no surprise that O'Shea's first UAE championship coincided with his first season as the No 2 rider for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid. The former two-time Irish champion apprentice will have the pick of Sheikh Hamdan's large and classy string until Richard Hills, the No 1 rider, returns for the Carnival.

Royston Ffrench

Ffrench, a stable rider for champion trainer Ali Rashid al Raihe, finished second in the jockey race last year but rode Al Shemali to victory in the US$5 million (Dh18.3m) Dubai Duty Free on World Cup day. His good form continued in Europe when he claimed the German Derby on Godolphin's Buzzword.

Wayne Smith

Smith has won big races in the Emirates - including the 2003 UAE Derby aboard Victory Moon - but he has not won the jockey's championship. He led the competition for a time last season, but Ffrench and O'Shea overtook him. Smith missed second by a single win and will be keen to finish higher this time.

William Buick

He secured one of the top jobs in Europe as stable jockey for John Gosden, and he performs the same service for Jebel Ali-based Dhruba Selvaratnam. Buick won two Group 1 races this year. He will be jetting back to Jebel Ali after fulfilling his commitments to Gosden at the Breeders' Cup in Kentucky this weekend.

Richard Mullen

Mullen has been riding in the UAE for 10 years, first with Godolphin and now at Millennium Stables. He had a good summer in England, winning Ascot's Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes with Electric Waves and the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury with Temple Meads.

2010 jockey standings

(finishes) 1st 2nd 3rd

1. Tadhg O'Shea 35 37 23

2. Royston Ffrench 31 23 28

3. Wayne Smith 30 25 23

4. William Buick 19 16 26

5. Richard Mullen 16 23 14


Five trainers to watch

Ali Rashid al Raihe

He is renowned as a man whose horses start the season ready to run. On the evidence of last term, they also arrive at the end of the year in fine fettle. His battle with Doug Watson ended decisively when Al Shemali won the US$5million (Dh18.3m) Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night.

Doug Watson

He has three UAE championships and was runner-up in other years. Watson, now the master of Red Stables, is keen to wrest the top spot back from al Raihe. He had a slow start to 2009/10 but with experience at Meydan and new horses in his yard, the American is hopeful of more honours.

Saeed bin Suroor

Bin Suroor, the more long-standing of Godolphin’s two trainers, finished third last season but was the most prolific winner in the Carnival. This year will bring comparisons to Godolphin’s other trainer, Mahmoud al Zarooni, although they say they are not in competition. Both enjoyed good spells in Europe during the summer.

Gillian Duffield

She is the reigning champion trainer of Arabians and has four other Arabian titles. A former trainer of point-to-point horses, she prepares Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s Arabians and has won every Arabian Group race in England. She was the first trainer to win a race at Meydan, with No Risk al Maury.

Musabah al Muhairi

Al Muhairi, a former policeman, learned by racing horses on the beach, and now his thoroughbreds and Arabians have beaten some of the best in the world. His yard benefits stable jockey Wayne Smith and there is no question he produces tough, talented competitors.

2010 trainer standings

(finishes) 1st 2nd 3rd

1. Ali Rashid al Raihe 28 24 28

2. Doug Watson 26 29 19

3. Saeed bin Suroor 24 13 18

4. Gillian Duffield 23 12 19

5. Dhruba Selvaratnam 17 15 29


The tracks

Abu Dhabi

Location Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, Mushrif area.

Track Right-handed 2,000m turf oval with a 500m run-in.

Seating 5,000.

Race dates Sundays. November 7, 14, 28; December 5, 12, 19, 26; January 2, 9, 23; February 6, 13, 27; March 13, 20.

Important races November 7, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup; December 5, National Day Cup; December 26 and February 6, The President Cup; March 20, Emirates Championship.


Location Sharjah Airport Road.

Track Left-handed, 1500m dirt/sand track.

Seating 3,700.

Race dates Saturdays. November 13, 20; December 11; February 19.

Important races February 19, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Cup


Location Meydan Road in the Nad al Sheba area of Dubai.

Track Left-handed 1,750m synthetic Tapeta track inside a 2,400m turf track.

Seating 60,000.

Race dates Mostly Thursdays. November 11, 25; December 2, 9, 16, 30; January 6, 13, 20, 27; February 3, 5, 10, 17, 18, 24; March 3, 5, 10, 26.

Important races February 17-18, Meydan Masters Jockey Championship; March 3, Super Thursday; March 26, Dubai World Cup Day.

Jebel Ali

Location Greens area of Dubai, off the Greens roundabout.

Track Right-handed 2,200m horse shoe-shaped track made of oiled sand and dirt, with 900m run-in and uphill finish.

Seating 2,000.

Race dates Fridays. November 6, 13, 20; December 4, 11, 18; January 8, 15, 22, 29; February 12, 26; March 12, 19.

Important races January 14, Jebel Ali Stakes; January 28, Jebel Ali Mile; March 11, Jebel Ali Sprint.