Ali Rashid Al Raihe's massive strides as UAE champion trainer

The Emirati has raised the bar on last year's performance and talks to Sarah Tregoning about his Carnival contenders.

Ali Rashid Al Raihe attributes the success story at Grandstand Stables to the effort put in by his staff.
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It is hard to envisage a scenario in which Ali Rashid Al Raihe, the UAE champion trainer, does not retain his crown this season.

With eight race meetings remaining before the March 31 Dubai World Cup, Al Raihe has already saddled 36 winners and 31 seconds. That is six more winners than he finished with last year.

He is also six ahead of the second-placed trainer, Doug Watson, and the pair have now drawn well clear of the chasing pack. Closest to the leaders is Al Raihe's brother-in-law, Musabah Al Muhairi, in third place with 17.

There is no doubt that races become harder to win as the season progresses, especially in the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan Racecourse. Yet Al Raihe, an Emirati, has proved in years past that he can mix it with both the international raiders and the mighty Godolphin home team.

"From the beginning of this season it was our aim to saddle more winners than last year," said Al Raihe, who has 50 horses in training for this season's races although he has more than that number in his yard.

"Every year that is our aim. We have already achieved more than last season at this point, and I hope that I can go for more winners and more success before the end of March."

It was two seasons ago that Al Shemali claimed the US$5 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night and landed his handler his first trainers' championship with 28 victories.

Since then the Grandstand Stables' star has continued to rise and big owners have taken note.

Jaber Abdullah, the owner of the great globe-trotting racehorse, Youmzain, and Saeed Manana, who won multiple Group 1s with Warrsan, have both sent horses to Al Raihe this season.

"The stable is improving every year and so we are becoming more prominent and we are getting some new owners," Al Raihe said.

There seems little doubt that not only will Al Raihe find himself in the winner's enclosure a few more times before the end of the racing year, but that he will also have representatives from Grandstand Stables lining up on World Cup day.

The trainer has a knack for producing horses that are ready to fire for the first race of the season as well as an ability to bring lower-rated horses up to Carnival standard.

Happy Dubai, the Grandstand Stables' sprint star who contested the 2010 Al Quoz Sprint before flying the flag in Singapore's Krisflyer Sprint, was rated 76 when he first came to Al Raihe. His good run of results since then have seen him rise to 112.

The same can be said for Zain Shamardal, who has gone from a rating of 89 to 100 since he joined Grandstand Stables.

And there is hope among Al Raihe's team, consisting of his assistant Jailani Siddiqi and the jockey Royston Ffrench, that Zain Shamardal, who has won twice this year, can climb still higher in the ratings and perhaps get an outing at the World Cup meeting.

"He would be one that we would hope to see more improvement from," Siddiqi said. "The boss is considering a run for him in the final Al Maktoum Challenge on Super Saturday and then we will see where we are with him before World Cup day."

Others that could make an appearance of the world's richest day or racing include First City, the filly who won the Group 2 Cape Verdi and was second in the Group 2 Balanchine this season.

Haatheq, a Carnival winner who was runner-up to Mendip in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round II, is being campaigned with half an eye on a World Cup outing, while the new recruit Rajsaman is looking at the Godolphin Mile or Duty Free.

"I would love to try and get Haatheq in the main race [the Dubai World Cup]," said Al Raihe. "First City would be looking at the Duty Free or Godolphin Mile and we are keeping our options open with Happy Dubai."

And Al Shemali, the horse that really put Grandstand Stables on the map, is said to be coming back to his old form after suffering a slump last season.

"He's coming back to himself," said Al Raihe, who now has the horse back in Dubai after a summer in the UK when he was third in a Conditions race at Leicester and runner-up to Mike de Kock's Mahbooba at Newmarket.

"He's been third twice at Meydan Racecourse and if he gets in, we would be considering him for the Sheema Classic."

Ffrench, the stable jockey at Al Raihe's yard for the past five years, is always very appreciative of his position at Grandstand Stables.

"It's great to be part of the team," Ffrench said. "Everybody at the yard puts a lot of work into these horses and its great to get the results."

Al Raihe himself is constantly referring to his team.

"Alone I am nothing," he said. "I believe that it is the whole team here that brings the success. We are all working together to make this yard the best it can be."