NEWMARKET, ENGLAND // These are heady times for Rabbah Bloodstock. Representing the umbrella racing organisation for the friends and associates of Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, in England this weekend will be Rizeena, the strong favourite for Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas.
Also on the books is Night Of Thunder, who takes his chance in the 2,000 Guineas tomorrow. Last week, Our Channel qualified for the English Derby and will head straight for Epsom next month, having proved himself with a victory at the course.
Rabbah Bloodstock was set up in England in 2006 and they have had their successes, including the fine runs of Jaber Abdullah’s Youmzain in finishing second in two Prix de l’Arc De Triomphes in 2008 and 2009, or Music Show’s victory in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes for the same owner.
To have Rizeena run in the silks of Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, however, as the most likely winner of the first fillies’ classic in Europe, is an event not lost on racing manager Bruce Raymond.
“I’ve never been in this position before,” Raymond said. “It is a great thing to have a Guineas favourite on the team.”
Rizeena, trained here by the veteran Clive Brittain, raced eight times last year in a season that included a win at Royal Ascot over five furlongs, a Group One win in Ireland at the Curragh over seven and a battling second in the Fillies’ Mile here in September.
Brittain, who trained Sheikh Mohammed’s Pebbles to become the first British-based winner at the Breeders’ Cup in the Turf in 1985, has long believed that Rizeena can be victorious in the Guineas without a prep run, although Raymond begged to differ when Brittain relayed the filly’s weight at the start of the year.
“She put on a lot of weight during the winter,” Raymond said. “When Clive told me she was 520kgs, I feared she had a fat belly, but the weight has gone on in all the right areas – her hind quarters and shoulders. She’s a big filly.
“Clive has had some great fillies, but she’s the easiest he’s had to train.”
This is the third season that Sheikh Rashid has had horses training in England, and last year he had 13 winners from just 52 runners.
He has had seven runners this season in Britain with no winners, but that lack of success early season will all be forgotten if Rizeena strikes in a Classic race at the home of flat racing.
Sheikh Rashid has been in almost daily communication with Raymond as Rizeena’s date with destiny approaches, and the Sheikh’s enthusiasm is tangible, according to his racing manager.
“It is right I speak to him nearly every day,” Raymond said. “He and his brother Sheikh Juma are very excited.
“They could go the whole of their time as owners and not have a Guineas favourite, so it is big thing.”
The two Sheikhs are far from the only owners based in Dubai who are set to have runners at Newmarket this weekend.
Godolphin field the dual UAE Classic winner Ihtimal in the 1,000 Guineas, and in addition to the wide-margin UAE Oaks winner, Charlie Appleby will represent the international stable when he saddles Outstrip, the Breeders’ Cup winner, in the 2,000 Guineas as well as Pinzolo in a Derby trial tomorrow.
With Meydan supremo Saeed Al Tayer’s Zurigha and Mohammed Al Nabouda’s Jathabah entered in Sunday’s Dahlia Stakes, Our Channel owner Abdullah Al Mansoori’s Tamayuz Star in the sprint handicap and Night Of Thunder owner Saeed Manana also represented by Monsea tomorrow, Newmarket will feel like a mini-Meydan, without the weather.
“The Guineas meeting is a festival that is well supported by my clients,” Raymond said. “Everyone’s in town for it, it is an important meeting.”