Feature Story

Watson’s Red Army gathering momentum as always

Watson’s Red Army gathering momentum as always Nov 24, 2022

By Duane Fonseca

The characters behind the scenes might have changed, but their script has remained virtually unchanged with the juggernaut continuing to roll forward steadily. With 11 winners secured inside the first month of the 2022/23 campaign, it’s business as usual for Doug Watson and his Red Stables operation, who have begun yet another term with the kind of typical nonchalance they’ve shown for years. “It’s been great!” Watson told Adiyat Racing Plus.

“A nice solid season so far. “Obviously the horses are doing well. Hopefully, when we get to the bigger races we can do well and pick up a few nice races, but I’m really happy with the way we have started.” Watson would have liked to see his trainees win first hand, but was forced to keep away from the racecourse by a debilitating orthopaedic condition that grew worse during the off season.

But he knew his orders would be executed perfectly by new assistant Dion McFadzean, who stepped in to fill the huge void left by Watson’s long-time deputy Noel Connolly who decided to pack up and relocate to his native Ireland along with wife Nyree, who worked as the American’s secretary at Red Stables.

“We’re kind of a new team at home. I lost Noel and Nyree as they went back home, with Dion taking over from Noel,” Watson said. “Noel is a great loss and so is Nyree, but Dion’s been here for years and he’s been with us and so it’s been a nice transition and we’re doing a great job.

“Noel’s going to look for a job back home. His kids are that age when it was time for them to go back and Noel wanted them to live in Ireland. It was tough losing them. I’ve known Noel for 29 years. He’s been my assistant for 19 so that was tough but he did what was best for his family and hopefully all works out well for them.”

Like it is perhaps for Watson, who was present at Jebel Ali Saturday and enjoyed a treble with Silver Jubilee triumphant in a maiden, Mayaadeen winning a handicap and Fanaar one of the co-features of the afternoon. Watson feels Silver Jubilee, a 3yo Dubawi entire owned by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, has good potential now that his maiden’s tag is lost.

“Silver Jubilee is a nice little horse, small, not big, but tough. If you look at his form in the UAE, he broke badly twice. The first time he ran second nicely at Meydan and then came here and was probably a little bit flat, but he’s been training great and Pat made him break great, put him in a good position and apologised to me for winning too far (Silver Jubilee won by four lengths).

He didn’t know how far ahead he was, but he’s a maiden and you have to push him to the wire anyway,” said the seven times UAE Champion Trainer, who admits he doesn’t know what lies ahead for Silver Jubilee. Over the years, Watson has grown Red Stables into one of the bigger operations in the UAE, but things are different this season with the number of inmates consciously restricted by him to a figure that is nearly 10% lower compared to last season.

Watson explains: “We have about 100 right now, which is a little less than last year, but we had too many last year. “We’ll probably be about 106-108, while last year we had 120 something and it was just too many to be honest. It’s better to keep track of them now with the good team of people we have.” Watson has plenty to look forward to and with the 2023 Dubai World Cup Carnival a little over a month away he is happy with the progress made by both the old guard and his band of newcomers.


“Sheikh Mohammed Obaid sent us a few good horses last year and we have a few nice ones for Shadwell. We bought some nice ones for Sheikh Rashid Al Nuaimi,” said Watson, who has 703 winners on UAE soil so far. “We have our old characters, Golden Goal, Everfast and Canvassed are going to come back nicely this year.

Hopefully, we can bring a few more to get above that 90 mark. They (ERA) wrote 20 handicaps in the carnival programme which is going to help everybody instead of having to compete in Stakes races all the time. Hopefully, we can make some dollars.” Watson has a healthy score of juveniles looking to make their mark and could have had two in the two races for 2yos so far at Meydan, but Nyaar was headed close home on 4 November.

A week later in the second event for juveniles Awasef broke her maiden on her first start when winning over 1200m on dirt. We have a 2yo that won the other night Awasef, she’s pretty good. We have two nice colts too. One runs next week and was right next to that filly that won last week in the trial.

He shows nothing at home, but I think he’s all right. “Nyaar who ran second will improve a lot. He and another nice filly we have will both run in the maiden on 1 December. We have another nice filly that’s more expensive but the one that won the other night Awasef impressed me a lot by how professional she was.

“We have two really nice colts, one is a halfbrother to our 2016 Group 3 UAE Oaks winner Polar River who’s going to run a bit later and the other we trialled last Wednesday by Bee Jersey for Charles Fipke and he looks the real deal. His name is Shirl’s Bee, his granddam is Lady Shirl, who was running at Arlington when I worked there before coming to Dubai. She was a nice top mare so it’s interesting. “Shirl’s Bee just ran away with her trial so we’ll just save him a bit, but I’m excited.”