Previously considered a Jebel Ali specialist by many, Muarrab seemingly put that theory firmly to bed with an emphatic victory in the Listed 1,200-metre Garhoud Sprint, one of the many highlights at Meydan on Thursday night.
In doing so, the winner of eight races on Jebel Ali’s uphill track, led home a 1-2-3 for his owner, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid with Rafeej, winner of this race in both 2013 and 2014, chasing him home and Kifaah in third.
“Most horses take a while to acclimatise from England but he seemed to settle straight in,” jockey Paul Hanagan said.
“Hopefully he is a Dubai Golden Shaheen horse at the end of the season, at least that is where we would like to be aiming.”
The meeting opened with the only Purebred Arabian race on the card, the 1,600m Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah and it was turned into a procession by Manark under another positive ride from Hanagan.
“It was a big relief to see him back to form,” trainer Erwan Charpy said. “We went to Abu Dhabi last time hoping for a big run but he was shocking. It does make you wonder if you have done something wrong but he is clearly a different horse here on the dirt.”
Al Muhairi got his first winner on the night with Special Fighter, who ran out the emphatic winner of the 1,600m Dubai Creek Mile with jockey Fernando Jara in the seat.
“He relaxed nicely in the race and then responded when I asked,” Jara said. “Hopefully he is a genuine Dubai World Cup Carnival horse.”
The least regarded on the evening might the 2,000m maiden but trainer Satish Seemar will not be mulling over that fact having supplied the winner and third.
For a long way it appeared apprentice Hector Crouch had stolen the race from the front on Seemar’s Carbon Dating, only to be collared about 300m from home by stable companion and eventual winner Piepowder Court under Richard Mullen.
“It was not a great race,” Mullen said. “I chose him over Carbon Dating as I thought he was the safer choice stamina-wise, and that has probably proved the case.
“Basically, it is over to the handicapper now as to where he goes.”
The action moves to Jebel Ali Racecourse on Friday, and the Jebel Ali Stakes Prep over 1,800m takes centre stage, with 10 runners, including last season’s Jebel Ali Stakes first- and second-place finishers Jutland and Mawhub, in the field.
Jutland has been a great servant to Red Stables-based trainer Doug Watson since transferring to the UAE from the UK team of Mark Johnston back in 2012.
A five-time winner for Johnston, Jutland has won seven races under Watson’s care including the 2013 Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship over 2,200m as well as the 2015 renewal of the Jebel Ali Stakes.
Jutland looked in need of the run three weeks ago when well beaten over today’s course and distance on his return to action after the summer break, and the veteran eight year old will be fitter for today’s outing.
Watson’s stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, though appears to disagree, as he has left Jutland, despite partnering him in each of his past 22 starts, to ride stable companion Grand Argentier.
A new recruit this season to Watson’s team, Grand Argentier showed plenty of promise on his local and dirt debut at Meydan Racecourse four weeks ago in a race won by the Dobbs’ ridden stablemate One Man Band.
Perhaps significantly for Dobbs, Grand Argentier receives weight from Jutland.
It is a swap of stablemates as Sam Hitchcott, who rode Grand Argentier at Meydan, will instead pilot Jutland.
“It was a tough choice for Pat,” Watson said. “He has enjoyed a lot of success on Jutland, so it must have been hard to choose against him, but we all really like Grand Argentier.
“Both will have needed their one run so far this season and should strip a lot fitter this time.
“I would struggle to split them but Jutland is penalised for his big race win in January.
“It looks a decent little race and Farraaj could be hard to beat.”
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