Trainer Doug Watson and stable jockey, Pat Dobbs combined to land two of the first three races on the Saeed and Mohammed Al Naboodah Group racecard at Meydan on Saturday evening.
They completed the double to provide arguably the biggest shock of the season so far, with Active Spirit, wearing a visor for the first time, making all in a 1600m handicap to deny hot favourite, Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby-nominated, Blue Creek.
Seeking to add to his course and distance maiden victory over Tobaco on New Year’s Day, the Charlie Appleby-trainer runner was slowly away under William Buick who was niggling his mount before halfway.
Blue Creek did stay on to snatch second, overhauling Taqneen in the straight but Dobbs and Active Sprit were not for catching.
“The visor’s obviously sharpened him up a lot,” said Dobbs. “He jumped quite good and I gave him a squeeze to make sure he did stay out in front which set him alight and he was over racing for the first little while but he settled and he was fine.”
Active Spirit pulled a shoe off in his last race, contributing to a tenth-place finish, behind Stormadal on New Year’s Day.
“He won his maiden by six lengths,” said Dobbs. “You don’t win a maiden by six lengths unless you have ability. I was impressed with him”
Active Spirit’s owners, the Emirates Entertainment Racing Club syndicate were understandably delighted.
“We thought he would run well,” said spokesman, Justin Byrne. “We wanted to be positive on him today and so put a visor on and Pat has done everything right.
“We were planning to step him up in trip but will have to think about that now as Pat said the visor really worked.”
The Watson-Dobbs double was initiated by Tobaco in the preceding 1200m dirt maiden and the horse looked likely to appreciate further in time.
A Meydan trial winner, Tobaco has subsequently been second in both his previous official starts, most recently behind Blue Creek over 1600m.
Stalking the pace, Dobbs pulled his mount out to challenge early in the straight with the pair leading 200m from home and posting a comfortable win.
“He is a nice young horse,” said Watson. “He obviously bumped into a good one last time and should improve for the extra experience and stepped back up in trip.”
Jockey Mickael Barzalona is a rare visitor to Meydan Racecourse outside of the Dubai World Cup Carnival and made his one ride a winning effort.
Partnering Torchlighter for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer in a valuable 1800m turf handicap, Barzalona was content to bide his time near the rear of a strong field of 16.
Up front, Alkawn and Soviet Rock were setting a testing gallop with the former weakening quickly on the home turn and the latter soon passed by Need To Know and Tadhg O’Shea.
They set for sail for home but Barzalona had switched Torchlighter out and they made relentless progress down the centre of the track to lead in the final 200m with Need To Know holding on for second.
“The return to turf really suits him and it is probably his best surface,” said Barzalona. “He has run some good races on dirt but will perhaps stick to the grass now.
“He enjoyed running past horses in the straight and I am delighted as it is my first winner of the season.”
Having won the first race at Al Ain on Friday, former UAE Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea repeated the trick in the first, landing the 1200m dirt handicap on Mutahaddith for trainer, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.
The pair have forged a powerful alliance at Grandstand Stables this season and O’Shea comfortably leads this year’s championship, while Al Raihe is involved in a titanic battle with Watson in the trainers’ list.
Although drawn five of the seven runners, O’Shea was soon able to get to the front and bag the rail. Hassled for the early lead by Ferando Jara aboard Maltese Cat, he burned that rival off just after halfway and had the race in the bag.
“He likes it here and has won both his course and distance starts,” said O’Shea. “He loves to bowl along in front and running here, around a bend, really suits him.”
Championship was the highly impressive winner of the last race, sealing a double on the night for trainer, Ahmed Bin Harmash who had earlier claimed the fifth race with Brabbham.
Frederik Tylicki was in the saddle aboard Championship, steering the five-year-old to a five length victory. Qatar’s Champion Jockey, Harry Bentley landed his first Meydan winner of the season when performing the steering on Brabbham, who was doubling up following a maiden victory earlier this month.