The 2019 UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait returns to Meydan for his first start for trainer Doug Watson in the third meeting at Dubai’s flagship racecourse on Thursday.
Since that Classic success in Dubai, Plus Que Parfait hasn't won in 15 starts back in the United States but did contest major races including the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes as well as last year’s Grade 1 Clark Handicap.
He carries the colours of his new owners, the Russian Racing Syndicate, and will be ridden by the stable's first choice jockey Pat Dobbs in the Listed The Entisar - the feature prize in the seven-race card.
“He has been training great and we know he likes it at Meydan, which is a bonus with a new horse to the yard. We are looking forward to running him and hope he goes well,” Watson said.
Plus Que Parfait is joined by six others in the race run over the 2,000-metre distance, in which Bhupath Seemar is doubled handed with Remorse, the choice of the stable jockey Tadhg O’Shea, and with Richard Mullen on board Saltarin Dubai.
Salem bin Ghadayer, who won the prize last year with Firnas, relies on Quip, the mount of Royston Ffrench.
Firnas has not won since landing the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in April 2019, when trained in the States by Rodolphe Brisset. He ran twice for Watson at the 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival before joining Satish Seemar, competing three times at last year’s international festival. This will be his first start for Bin Ghadayer.
“He has been pleasing us at home and is ready for a race. We will find out plenty about him on Thursday but are hoping for a good run,” the Emirati trainer said.
Ahmad Bin Harmash and Ray Dawson are forging a successful partnership and combine with seasonal debutant Aydon Castle who will be having just his second dirt outing after finishing fifth in a big field handicap over the trip and track in March. That was his second of three outings since leaving France where he won once for Andre Fabre and Godolphin.
“He has been training well but he might be more of a turf horse than dirt one,” Bin Harmash said. “However, we decided to try him on dirt to just see how he goes. He’s been a sound horse since joining us and did well in his last run at Abu Dhabi, but this is a tough race for his comeback. We will know more regarding the surface after the race.”
As part of the country’s 50th National Day celebrations, each of the seven races are named after the septet of individual emirates that make up the UAE.