UAE - The wait is finally over and the excitement that racing at Meydan generates was very much the order of the day as the UAE’s flagship racecourse kicked off its 2022-2023 season in thrilling style on Friday.
And that wasn’t exactly a surprise.
A large crowd of fans welcomed back their favourite sport at its principal venue, cheering wildly during every race of the evening.
Ever since it opened its doors to business in 2010, the Meydan Racecourse has held its audience captive with the sheer drama that unfolds on its twin tracks — the trademark Dubai dirt surface and the verdant green course which will swing into action next year with the start of the 2023 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
As has been the trend at the start of each new season since racing began in this part of the world in 1992, the competition was fierce as horses, jockeys and trainers went flat out in a bid to lay down a marker for the meetings to follow.
Claiming that honour with the crack pairing of champion trainer and jockey, Bhupat Seemar and Tadhg O’Shea, who won two of the evening’s seven races that were sponsored by the Dubai Racing Club’s Pillar Partner, Emirates Airline.
The second of these wins was extra special as a pair of horses trained by Seemar at Zabeel Stables in the heart of Dubai fought out what was by far the race of the night, with Pitcher’s Point running a blinder for the 10-time UAE champion jockey to deny stable companion Al Marmoom by the shortest of margins.
The win came just half an hour after Seemar and O’Shea combined with Western Symphony to get their Meydan campaign off the ground.
Both winners aced in the yellow silks of Al Rashid Stables and Seemar paid tribute to the owners saying: “They are very big supporters of racing and invest a lot of money into the game. So it’s good to see results like that for them.”
O’Shea, who has dominated the sport in the Emirates for the past decade, looked as sharp as ever in the saddle and commented on his victory aboard Western Sympathy, a horse bought out of the Godolphin sales in Dubai.
“The gods were with me because she (Al Marmoom) came and headed me and my fella,” he said, “But look, either first or second was a deserving result. It was a hard-fought victory and luckily luck was with me tonight.”
O’Shea chose the spotlight to highlight the significance and impact that the Racing In Dubai Sales featuring ex-Godolphin horses have had on raising the standard of the UAE racing scene.
“These horses that are bred by Godolphin are the best in the world,” said the Irishman. “We are very blessed that they come to the auctions here and the local owners get access to pedigrees that will stand up anywhere in the world.
“They are amazing pedigrees and you literally have to pinch yourself when you see what they (owners) are buying. They are bred to be champions.
Speaking from his rich experience of having ridden in the UAE for close to two decades, O’Shea also offered advice to young riders hoping to make their mark in the Emirates with a comparison of riding techniques that bring the best out of a horse.
“It’s a different style of racing over here than in the UK,” he said. “You've got to get them out of the gates and get them running in the UK.
"You jump to get them settled and you ride to finish but for the dirt, you need a good grinding horse and you’ve got to have gate speed and you got to be tough.”
The second joint feature of the evening the Emirates Handicap over 1900m, attracted a field of just seven runners but it was Royston Ffrench riding Book Review who took control of the race right from the start and never conceded the advantage before pulling clear entering the home straight and staying on strongly to score in rousing fashion for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
Ffrench said: “We know he goes well fresh and once he has a lead he is a very hard horse to get past. Hopefully, he can have a good season and be a bit more consistent than he has been in the past.”
The Meydan season kicked off with the first juvenile race of the season, a 1200m maiden which was won by Sharp Army and Ray Dawson for trainer Ahmad bin Harmash.
The winner cost a reasonable fee of $40,000 at the Ocala Sale in April of this year and showed plenty of attitude with a battling victory.
Dawson said: “We had a bad draw so to do that as he has is very pleasing with a debutant juvenile. The owner has invested in the sales over the summer so it is nice to get that early winner for him.”
Seldom does champion trainer Doug Watson go home empty-handed and the Red Stables boss dominated the 2000m handicap scoring a 1-2 finish with Al Nayyir, shedding his maiden tag when scoring over stablemate Karnavaal.
Cosgrave said: “I was told to ride him patiently and take my time on him and he has done that nicely. There should be more to come from him.”
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