By Duane Fonseca -
A flurry of doubles welcomed the inaugural edition of the Dubai Racing Carnival which began at Meydan Racecourse on Friday - but there was no doubting the headline act.
A trio of trainers recorded braces on the eight- race card at Dubai’s marquee racing venue with Bhupat Seemar and Michael Costa among the winners.
However, it was Musabbeh Al Mheiri that stole the show courtesy of a landmark double which helped him reach and breach the 500-winner mark in the UAE. The outstanding milestone arrived when the impressive El Nasseeb, made light work of his rivals in the 1200m Emirates Holidays maiden for juveniles under Bernardo Pinheiro.
The combination kicked clear in the straight under Pinheiro to win by an extending massive seven-and-a-quarter lengths from the Costa- trained Gaassid (Ben Coen).
Emirati handler Al Mheiri wasn’t finished there though and completed a memorable night with 501 on the board after two-time course and distance winner Qareeb rallied under a fine ride from Al Moatasem Al Balushi to deny Vasilakos (Bin Harmash/Gabriele Malune) in the closing stages of the Emirates Skywards 1900m handicap (75-95).
“It’s brilliant to have reached the landmark of 500 wins, but it’s all down to the team we have at the stables and the riders that have been part of the operation and the owners that have helped me by putting their trust in me and giving me their horses to train so it’s just all round nice to have got to the mark,” a delighted Al Mheiri said.
THREE TWO TANGO
While three trainers recorded braces, there were also doubles for a pair of owners; Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Touch Gold Racing, while industrious 11- time UAE Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea also got in on the act. Stealing the headlines among that elite group were the trainer- jockey combination representing Zabeel Racing of Seemar and O’Shea, whose double comprised victories in the co-feature events on the Emirates-sponsored card for owners Touch Gold Racing.
Touch Gold Racing owned both of Western Symphony, winner of the mile handicap (85- 105), and Leading Spirit, who bolted up to win the 1200m sprint handicap (80-100).
SYMPHONY IN FINE RHYTHM
Western Symphony sat off the pace set by Echo Point, who led the field into the straight, and then urged by O’Shea lengthened fully to race to a length-and-a-half victory ahead of the Omani apprentice Qais Al Busaidi driven Seyouff, trained by Costa for Sheikh Ahmed, who closed in late holding off Laasudood (Pat Cosgrave), another Seemar trainee in third.
It was much the same from Leading Spirit, who made it two in two for Seemar, O’Shea and Touch Gold Racing in the subsequent 1200m handicap where Fast Uno led marginally from O’Shea’s mount in the straight. The pair saw engaged in a stretch duel, before O’Shea encouraged his partner to find more and pull clear by a few lengths. Ahmad bin Harmash’s Magic Petition posed a late threat under Connor Beasley, but Leading Spirit had done enough to see the race through.
“He (Western Symphony) jumps and he goes well and he gets the mile well,” O’Shea said. “It was his first race of the season and to be able to compete for the Group 2 Godolphin Mile he needs to progress a bit more, but seven furlongs or a mile is no problem for him.”
Beasley and Bin Harmash were left celebrating one of the minor events on the card, the Emirates Sky Cargo 1600m handicap (56-75) in which Al Jaddaf scored by a length-and- a-quarter from Al Mheiri’s Aldhaja, the ride of Pinheiro.
A further four lengths back in third was recent Sharjah scorer Perfect Balance, trained by Seemar and ridden by O’Shea.
Australian conditioner Costa ensured his fine run continued as retained trainer for Sheikh Ahmed, whose bright yellow silks lit up Jebel Ali a fortnight ago with a five-timer.
Costa had won five of the six thoroughbred events on that card, and at Meydan,
where he enjoyed a hat-trick last campaign during his first year at the helm at Jebel Ali, the Queensland native was back on target first in the Arabian Adventures 1600m maiden (3yos) with Meshtri. Partnered by visiting rider James Orman, who rode that five-timer, the duo engaged Seemar’s Nevershow Weakness (O’Shea) in a match race down the straight before prevailing by a half-length.
The pair were so dominant, they left the pack a country mile behind with third placed Bin Harmash-trainee Classic Medal finishing a further 24 and three fourths in arrears under Beasley.
Costa and Sheikh Ahmed completed their doubles after retained rider Ben Coen won the card-closing emirates.com 1400m handicap (65-85) aboard Sadeedd, who finished with just under a length to spare from Bin Harmash’s Triple Venture, Beasley up.
The only Purebred Arabian event on the card, the 1400m Emirates Sky Cargo handicap (0- 95) got the card underway and was won by rookie handler Saif Al Marar’s AF Yatwy, who dug deep under Oscar Chavez to edge AF Layth (Ernst Oertel/Marcelino Rodrigues) by a length. A further length-and-three quarters in arrears was Asmaa for Majed Al Jahoori and Pinheiro.