Prolific UAE performer, Kilt Rock claimed the most valuable race on Meydan Racecourse’s New Year’s Day meeting today (Friday) to land his ninth career win and a first on the dirt at Meydan.
The EGA Excellence Trophy over 1400m was the most valuable race on the card, and was dominated by trainer, Doug Watson who not only saddled the winner, Kilt Rock, but also runner-up Dornoch.
With stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, choosing to ride Dornoch, Sam Hitchcott, also attached to the Watson team at Red Stables and well proven as a more than capable ‘deputy’, was aboard Kilt Rock.
Seemingly badly drawn, widest of all the nine runners, Hitchcott soon managed to get to the front and was also able to secure the invaluable berth on the rails.
They then made all and never really saw another rival.
A 1200m turf winner at Meydan, Kilt Rock also has five Jebel Ali dirt victories to his credit but was trying this Meydan surface for the first time.
He is owned by EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club) who had a healthy representation on course and were in for double delight after Mizbah, from the same yard, landed the closing race.
“If you look at his form in England he has won over 1400m,” said club representative, Justin Byrne. “When we bought him and sent him to Doug Watson he showed so much speed we dropped him to sprint trips but, like all of us, he is getting that bit older.
“He likes to get out in front, which is not always easy over those sprint trips, but he could today and he clearly enjoyed it.
“He seems to like dirt so we were keen to try him on it here at Meydan and now, hopefully, this opens up plenty of options for him.”
The evening got better for the EERC as Mizbah set a new track record of 2:19.01 in the process of claiming the 2200m EGA Jebel Ali Trophy under Dobbs.
The meeting opened with a fascinating 1600m maiden, featuring the return to local action of Godolphin who wasted no time in opening the seasonal account.
Blue Creek, trained by Charlie Appleby, was an impressive winner. Officially unraced, he had won a trial at Meydan, but still looked in need of the experience here.
Slowly away, he was soon travelling nicely in midfield under Richard Mullen before the pair cruised into contention on the final bend.
One shake of the reins from Mullen was all that was required and they swept past Tobaco, who led very briefly under Dobbs, and the race was settled.
“I am in a great position with so many nice horses to train,” said Appleby. “This fellow has plenty of ability and a great pedigree. He will only improve with time and the further he goes the better he will be.
“The fact Meydan staged a trial was a great help for him because he was slowly away here and is, basically, work in progress. I doubt we will go for the UAE 2000 Guineas trial or the big race itself.
“The Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday and UAE Derby would be possibilities because the trip will suit him much better.
“It is a great way to start the year.”
A wide margin 1000m maiden winner at Jebel Ali’s opening meeting of the season at the end of October, Mutahaddith bounced back from two disappointing efforts to win again in a 1200m handicap.
Trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe, he was quickly away under Tadhg O’Shea and basically led throughout, never really looking in danger of being headed.
“He has not always been the best in the gates so we were keen to go in late and we did,” said O’Shea. “Having made a good break he was happy out in front, picked up nicely and ran on well.”
HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum had two runners in the 1400m handicap and, turning for home, it appeared his first jockey, Paul Hanagan had made the right choice as he kicked for home on Alraased.
But Hanagan’s mount started to weaken halfway down the straight, allowing the owner’s second runner, Tajheez to pounce and, ultimately, run out a comfortable winner.
Trained by Musabah Al Muhairi, Tajheez was partnered by Dane O’Neill, also retained by Sheikh Hamdan.
“He stays further so I was keen to be as close to the speed as possible to try and utilise that stamina,” said O’Neill. “Turning into the straight I was pretty happy and then he picked up well.
“He was not likely to stop over this trip and ran on strongly as you would expect.”
Jockey, Wayne Smith showed his strength in no uncertain terms aboard Stormardal whom he dove to lead close home in a 1600m handicap, denying Muhtaram who had appeared the likely winner throughout most of the straight.
Trained by Ismail Mohammed, Stormardal is a horse the yard have always really liked but has not had an easy preparation in recent times.
“We really thought he was a Dubai World Cup Carnival horse,” said Smith. ‘But it has been so tricky to keep him sound and get him to the track in top shape.
“When you think so much of a horse, as we do of him, it is just great when they put their head in front.”