DUBAI // This season's front-running UAE trainer Ali Rashid al Raihe goes into Jebel Ali's final meeting of the campaign today with just two wins separating him from the defending champion, Doug Watson. And, as has been the case for every race in Jebel Ali's extended season this year, the card looks very competitive with chances for both handlers to boost their hopes for the championship.
Watson saddles Numair, the handsome grey gelding who is so pale in colour that he could easily be described as white. Numair was a very convincing four-length winner for jockey Wayne Smith in the concluding Al Shafar Group seven-furlong handicap last week and his trainer is hoping he can double up over the same distance today in the Shadwell Farm. "He's a very nice ride to have," said Smith, who usually rides for Musabah al Muhairi.
"This horse always goes well and last week he knew exactly what to do." Smith rides al Muhairi's exceptional Ibn Battuta in the World Cup Dubai Duty Free. With 30 victories to his name Smith is challenging the top two riders, Tadhg O'Shea (34) and Royston Ffrench (30 but with more seconds) in the UAE jockeys' championship. Dhruba Selvaratnam's Canwinn opposes Numair. He will go to the post under owner Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid's regular jockey, William Buick, and will be a contender after finishing runner-up over course and distance in January.
Step In Line, from the yard of Abdullah bin Huzaim, is another threat. The consistent gelding is going for three in a row having won his last two outings over a mile. If his rider, Jesus Rosales gets his charge clear in this contest they may prove hard to catch. There are two races carrying top prize money of Dh120,000 today, and Mike de Kock will be confident of grabbing a share of that with his horse Art of War in the Derrinstown Stud Conditions race.
Art of War, who will have Kevin Shea in the saddle, showed willing when third behind stable companion Wonder Lawn last week. He takes a drop in trip, but is not likely to be affected by it. He faces Blues Ballad, trained by Satish Seemar, who is on a high after claiming the Jebel Ali sprint last week with the World Cup- bound Terrific Challenge. Blues Ballad, with Ted Durcan still filling in for the suspended Richard Mullen, was fifth in his last outing at Meydan Racecourse, but should do better now he is back at his preferred Jebel Ali track.
Selvaratnam will surely be in the frame again for the second Dh120,000 contest, the Shadwell Conditions race, when Mannjal bids to improve on his second behind Terrific Challenge in the Sprint prep last month. He faces al Raihe's Happy Dubai, a winner this season and the choice of stable jockey Ffrench, while Al Raihe's other runner Montpellier, who has also won at Jebel Ali, will be ridden by O'Shea. firstname.lastname@example.org