Averroes is back to defend his crown in Thursday’s racing at Meydan highlight, a 2800m handicap.
The meeting, a six-race card sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld, is being staged exactly one week before the eagerly awaited opening fixture of the 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival, held on January 10.
The most valuable race on a card has attracted a select field of seven with last year’s winner set to concede weight to his six rivals.
Trained near Abu Dhabi by Ernst Oertel for Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Averroes will be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea who is clearly looking forward to the race.
“He ran a good race on his comeback over a trip short of his best and these are his ideal conditions but the weight has to be an issue,” said the jockey.
“He is conceding a lot of weight to some decent horses but on the positive side he worked very well the other day and the yard are bang in form.
“I won on Almiqdaad last year and he could be the main danger.”
Royaaty chased Averroes home last term and will try and gain his revenge with Xavier Ziani in the saddle for trainer, Mubarak bin Shafya.
The pair won a 2,200m handicap on the Abu Dhabi turf last time and Xiani said: “The horse is a real favourite of mine and it was great to win on him again last time. He handles the all-weather well and is a strong stayer so I hope we can go close.”
Paul Hanagan rides Almiqdaad for his main employer Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and he would be a big threat if able to reproduce his best form on this, his second start after a long absence.
He failed to beat a rival on his comeback but is held in some regard by his trainer, Erwan Charpy who said: “He is a big horse and needed that first run probably more than we thought. The step up in trip should suit him and he seems to handle the Tapeta well enough in his work.”
Maximum fields are set to face the starter in four of the other five races with the exception being a 1,200m handicap which looks ultra competitive even though only 11 have been declared.
Forevertheoptimist represents the same connections as last year’s Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor and should appreciate this drop in grade having contested conditions races on both his previous starts this season.
Kieren Fallon rides for owner/trainer Fawzi Nass.
Innocuous, to be ridden for Champion Trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe by stable jockey Royston Ffrench looks a big danger.
Sixteen are set to go to post in the penultimate race, a 1,600m handicap, which appears particularly competitive. Champion Jockey O’Shea has the mount on the Doug Watson-trained Mark To Market and is not fazed by his draw in 10, saying: “His running style is to settle off the speed so a wider draw is not an issue and the big field may actually work in his favour on this occasion.”
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