Race for trainer’s title enters last stretch in UAE season finale

Doug Watson and Ernst Oertel head into Meydan and Al Ain meetings level on 38 winners each

Trainer Doug Watson is aiming for a record eighth UAE trainer’s title. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Trainer Doug Watson is aiming for a record eighth UAE trainer’s title. Chris Whiteoak / The National

With the UAE jockey’s and owner’s championships titles already decided, the race for the trainer’s crown is set to go to the wire with the last two meetings of the season at Meydan and Al Ain.

Doug Watson and Ernst Oertel are level on 38 winners each but Watson is ahead by virtue of having more second placed finishes.

Tadhg O’Shea has the UAE jockey’s championship crown safely in the bag, stretching his record haul to nine, while his main patron Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah has completed a hat-trick and fourth owner’s title.

Watson, who mainly trains thoroughbreds, will be hoping to saddle as many winners as possible in the bumper eight-race card meeting for thoroughbreds at Meydan on Thursday.

Oertel on the other hand, who predominantly trains Purebred Arabians, has 19 runners entered across the six races for the Arabians in the seven-race card at Al Ain on Friday.

Watson has 13 runners across eight races at Meydan as the American bids for a record eighth UAE trainer’s title.

The highlight of the card is the Zabeel Trophy, a rated conditions stakes on the turf track run over the 1,600-metre distance.

It has drawn the maximum allowed field of 16 runners headed by Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby’s Velorum.

The five-year-old Sea The Stars gelding ran twice at this year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival, finishing eighth in both in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort and Group 2 Zabeel Mile.

He was not beaten far on the latter occasion and was a carnival winner in a handicap last February, his only start of 2020.

Richer Mullen is booked and the Zabeel Stables jockey said: “It’s a nice spare ride to pick up and he has plenty of good form in the book. It looks a good spot for him, but it is a strong race. Hopefully we will be thereabouts.”

Watson appears to have two good chances with Gabr and Mount Pelion, the latter seemingly the choice of the stable jockey Sam Hitchcott.

Mount Pelion was fourth on his carnival debut and disappointed in his start both at Meydan since joining Watson.

Gabr, under Adrie de Vries, is seeking to double his UAE tally after his victory at Jebel Ali on his season debut in the middle of November.

He also finished ahead of Mount Pelion in a 1,800m turf handicap, finishing second behind an easy Appleby/Godolphin winner in Eastern World.

“Obviously it is a tough race, but both seem in good form,” Watson said of the six-year-old gelding Gabr.

“Mount Pelion bled after his last race, but we pretty sure we have that sorted so he should run better. He remains a nice horse.

“Gabr has been running well all season and is versatile, particularly regarding surface. Hopefully he will also run well, but as I said, it is a competitive race.”

Updated: April 7, 2021 03:43 PM

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