Some of the UAE’s best speedballs will bid to lay down a marker for the rest of the season’s dash-for-cash races when they line-up in the Listed Garhoud Sprint, the feature race of an attractive nine-race card at Meydan Racecourse on Friday.
Run over 1,200 metres on the iconic venue’s dirt track, the Garhoud Sprint is the middle leg of the inaugural three-race Emirates Sprint Series (ESS) which was preceded by the HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup at Sharjah and will culminate in the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint on February 10, 2024.
The ESS rewards any horse that wins two legs of the series with a bonus purse of Dh 250,000. Interestingly, the newly-launched event has already developed a twist with Eastern World, winner of the opening leg, not entered in Friday’s contest, which means that the series is wide open.
That apart the race has attracted a strong field of 11 sprinters with four of them boasting strong credentials to dominate the contest.
Zabeel Stables boss Bhupat Seemar, who sent out Switzerland to win the Garhoud Sprint in 2022, before the son of Dubawi went on to achieve stamp himself in the record books by taking out the $2.5m Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) on Dubai World Cup night, is three handed in the showpiece with Freedom Fighter, Leading Spirit and Bay Of Honour.
Commenting on the chances of Freedom Fighter, who was campaigned in all the major sprint races in the UAE last season and even travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3) Seemar said: “He’s doing well and is fit and ready.
“He was just unlucky last season with the draws - he was almost always drawn wide in every race. He’s a horse who we have always held in high regard. This time he’s drawn in the middle, so hopefully, with a bit of luck, he should give a good account of himself.”
Champion trainer Doug Watson, who has also sampled success in the Garhoud Sprint on two occasions in the past, with My Catch in 2016 and Drafted in 2018, saddles My Catch, the winner of three starts last season including two at Meydan.
The trainer commented: “He’s in really good form. We took him over to Meydan a couple of times this year to work and he’s worked very well.
“We just missed out on making World Cup night last year. But he’s a really good sprinter and were expecting a lot out of him this year. But it’s the first race of the year for him, and like most of our horses, he will need the race.
“But I think we’ve got him pretty much spot. He has a great draw (Gate 6) and I expect big things from him this year. Happy with him he’s kind of filled out a little bit and looks like a proper sprinter,” added Watson.
“We’re looking forward to tomorrow night to getting him started and looking forward to the whole season with him really.”
Michael Costa, Jebel Ali Stables’ Australian handler, has his string in rude form and in that context his runner, Saleymm, should garner a lot of respect.
Formerly trained in the UK by the father-son duo of Simon and Ed Crisford, the five-year-old Dubawi gelding, makes his UAE debut after posting won four wins in the UK.
Other notables in the field include Rashed Bouresly’s game sprinter Mquaas, who recorded four wins last season and the Ahmed bin Harmash-trained Magic Portion, who has won over six furlongs but was beaten a neck by Leading Spirit on his last outing.
The meeting, which is supported end-to-end by Azizi, kicks-off with the PA Group 2 Madjani Stakes which has attracted a high-quality field of Purebred Arabian all of whom are being prepared with an eye on the $1m Dubai Kahayla Classic.
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