Muarrab has a big task ahead of him when the 2016 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner starts preparations on Wednesday by defending his title in the listed Garhoud Sprint at the Meydan Racecourse.
The Golden Shaheen victory over 1,200 metres on Dubai World Cup night was the highlight of Muarrab’s impressive 13 career victories, 11 of which have been registered in the UAE since joining Musabbeh Al Mheiri at Oasis Stables.
The winning portfolio also includes a Jebel Ali Sprint title in 2015 as well as a victory in Super Saturday’s Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal last season to go along with the Garhoud Sprint.
The seven-year-old gelding of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid is the choice of the owner’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill, but has been drawn wide in Stall 11 of 12 runners. Muarrab, as a Group 1 winner, also carries an additional weight penalty.
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“It is not a great draw and he carries a penalty,” O’Neill said. “However, he goes well fresh and is tactically versatile so, hopefully, we can overcome the draw and maintain my perfect record on him. I have ridden him twice in a race, winning both times.”
The only runner drawn wider than Muarrab is Ghaamer, also owned by Sheikh Hamdan and trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe. Stable jockey Tadhg O’Shea will be aboard.
“We are drawn next to the horse we all have to beat — Muarrab,” O’Shea said.
Al Raihe and O’Shea also have hopes riding on Le Bernardin to emulate his victory 12 months ago in the second of three listed contests on the night, the Dubai Creek Mile.
Squaring up against them will be O’Neill again on one of the main challengers in the race, Maftool, trained by Musabah Al Muhairi and owned by Sheikh Hamdan.
Winner of the UAE 2,000 Guineas last year for Godolphin, he made a winning start for his new trainer in a course and distance handicap in February before failing to land a blow in the Godolphin Mile.
“He is a very nice horse and, like Muarrab, goes well fresh,” O’Neill said. “The trainer is very happy with him and I hope he will be competitive in a good race.”
Maftool was chased home by Cool Cowboy in February last year but the latter reversed the form when third in the Godolphin Mile at the Dubai World Cup.
He won Super Saturday’s Group 3 Burj Nahaar, also over 1,600m, in the interim.
Trained by Doug Watson and ridden by Pat Dobbs, Cool Cowboy should be ready for this engagement having had a start at Jebel Ali five weeks ago.
“Conditions suit him and he has thrived since his Jebel Ali run,” Watson said.
“He has a penalty for his Super Saturday success but he should be capable of at least going close.”
Watson and Dobbs also will combine on one of the evening’s most interesting runners, Candy Boy, in The Entisar, over the same 2,000m course and distance as the Dubai World Cup. Watson’s charge has contested the world’s richest race in the past two seasons but has clearly been easy to train.
Watson is also represented by both Storm Belt and Etijaah, with the case is arguable that all three have a chance.
“If I had to nominate one it would probably be Candy Boy,” Watson said.
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