By Duane Fonseca -
The bonus associated with winning at least two legs of the recently-assembled Emirates Sprint Series (ESS) has put an even stronger focus on this year’s Listed Garhoud Sprint, the feature event on Friday’s card at Meydan Racecourse.
The 1200m sprint on dirt has been instituted as the second of three legs of the ESS, with no chance of the AED250,000 bonus reserved for the winner of at least two legs being scooped up after Ahmad bin Harmash’s decision to withdraw Eastern World, winner of the HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup (1200m, Conditions), the opening leg of the ESS two weeks ago at Sharjah, from the list of entries.
That leaves the door open for a new name to emerge as a possible prospect for the bonus. Eastern World might be benched, but his trainer is not and has instead fielded Magic Petition (Connor Beasley), a former course and distance winner who was runner-up behind Leading Spirit on his seasonal bow four weeks ago. A three-year-old son of Good Magic, Bin Harmash’s charge was gelded during the off season after his dismal ninth behind Sound Money in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal and the procedure seems to have done him a world of good as was evidenced during his campaign-opening run.
That day he was among the first to be put on the bridle before maintaining a strong pace all the way to the finish to keep up the pressure on Leading Spirit, who he would finish runner- up to by a neck.
NEEDS LITTLE IMPROVEMENT
A measure of improvement from that display and he should be able to avenge that defeat here as Leading Spirit heads a trio being saddled by Bhupat Seemar, whose operation has dominated the dirt sprint division at Meydan for decades.
Zabeel Stables’ fine record gains a massive boost with Leading Spirit (Pat Cosgrave) looking to frank his course and distance form on this step up in class.
The seven-year-old Exceed And Excel gelding has won three of his last five starts, including when outclassing the consistent Bilhayl over his far more demanding Jebel Ali strip in a 1000m affair in February.
THREE IN ALL FOR SEEMAR
Fourth in the second leg of the ESS last term behind Road Bloc, Leading Spirit looked a class act, but even Seemar knows he will have to step up a few notches to make it two- in-two and enter bonus contention.
Seemar also saddles Freedom Fighter, the pick of Zabeel’s first choice rider Tadhg O’Shea, who is yet to break free from the shackles of defeat and was last seen finishing seventh of nine in the Group 3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint in February.
Seemar’s third entrant is the once prominent British mile handicapper, Bay Of Honour (James Doyle), who joined Zabeel in September, but pulled up on his first start for his new yard in a 1400m affair at Jebel Ali.
Miqyaas (Oscar Chavez) proved he could be more useful on turf than dirt last season and trainer Rashed Bouresly might quite clearly want this to be a lung opener with the turf track set to open soon.
The eight-year-old Oasis Dream gelding boasts a win and a runners-up finish in two course and ` starts and a win at Sharjah last term initiated a three win run that ended with victory in the Group 2 Blue Point Sprint on turf in a field that, in all honestly, lacked real quality.
Miqyaas would be found out soon afterwards when dropped in class against potent rivals in the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Sprint and could only manage second. Silent Speech (Salem bin Ghadayer/Royston Ffrench), winner of the 1200m Dubai Trophy in January last year and a short head second on his next assignment over course and distance, is also part of the field alongside in-form trainer Michael Costa’s Saleymm, a former Simon and Ed Crisford trainee, who makes his UAE debut.
A five-year-old Dubawi gelding, Saleymm was last seen finishing a distant runner-up to Sacred in the Listed Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury last September.
ALHZEEM LOOKING TO STRIKE
The highlight of the undercard is a 80-100 rated handicap over 1900m and though Alhzeem disappointed at this venue over this trip in a handicap on his last start, trainer Michael over the progressive Delorean, who won last week’s feature at Jebel Ali; a run which puts the Costa trainee very much in the mix.
Bin Ghadayer deploys two: UAE debutante Forest Falcon (Royston Ffrench) and Made In Dubai (Xavier Ziani), who had a lot to do on his last start in a mile handicap but did everything perfectly under Mickael Barzalona to win by two lengths.
A two-time winner over a mile trip on the surface, the four-year-old More Than Ready gelding should be one of those fancied to land this despite never having run beyond a mile after showing he had a lot more left in the tank during his last performance.
The Non Winner event (not more than one win) features a field of 10 juveniles, with Nezeeh (Saeed bin Suroor/Cristian Demuro) and Military Artist (Fawzi Nass/Adrie de Vries) bound to share the spotlight for having won once in two starts each, with Killer Collect and Tactical Bound, third and seventh in the maiden won handsomely by El Nasseeb also demand attention.
Costa has plenty of evidence to believe in the five-year-old Liam’s Map gelding who has shown a genuine liking for the surface in the past. Alhzeem turned up for the 2023-24 campaign with a massive five-and-a-half-length win