Post card from Meydan | Part 3
Gold Town (William Buick) after winning the G3 UAE 2,000 Guineas Photo courtesy of @amiekarlsson
BHA Stipendiary Steward, Adrian Sharpe, has been seconded to the Emirates Racing Authority for the UAE season and has been keeping us up to date all the action from Meydan.
There has been some truly impressive performances here at Meydan since my last report, with Benbatl following up his G3 Singspiel Stakes win with an easy win in the G2 Al Rashidiya on 1st February.
Also Folkswood continues his globetrotting triumphs with a nail-biting late run to win the G3 Dubai Millennium Stakes last Thursday. On the same card was the fascinating G2 Meydan Sprint which effectively was a duel between Ertijaal (IRE) (Jim Crowley) and Blue Point (IRE), (James Doyle). Ertijaal, who rightly enjoys his reputation as one of the fastest horses in the world over 5fs, was soon in a commanding lead as usual and prevailed by a head. For me, his style of running and ‘will to win’ makes the 7yo A Al Rayhi trained gelding my favourite Carnival performer so far.
In addition to the great Ertijaal, one of the most talked about performances of the Carnival so far involves a connection with my local track back home, Newcastle Racecourse. Newcastle’s AW track has only been open for 20 months and had already been the chosen venue for the debut of Arc de Triomphe superstar and Cartier Horse of the Year Enable. Six months later in May 2017, a seemingly low key 2yo Novice Stakes field included the Charlie Appleby trained Gold Town and was won by the debutant Rajasinghe. Rajasinghe’s next run was an emphatic win in the ultra-competitive G2 2yo Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot before ending his 2yo campaign contesting the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar in November. Now Gold Town, who since arriving here, has been a revelation since switching to dirt here at Meydan; his 10 length win in the UAE 2,000 Gns was only his second dirt start. This performance has earned the gelding a supplement for the Kentucky Derby on May 5th. and Gold Town is currently ante-post 4th favourite for the Run for the Roses. The first leg of the USA Triple Crown at Churchill Downs is a key ambition for Godolphin and what a great story it would be for Meydan, Newcastle and international racing should Gold Town make the gates at the Twin Spires venue on 5th May.
We have now completed 50 meetings of the UAE season, including 8 DWCC carnival meetings and with only a month and 12 more meetings to go, it seems as though the last 5 months has flown by. One of the most enjoyable aspects of working here in the UAE has been working with the ERA’s Registry Office team, whose multi-skilling abilities and global racing experience is truly impressive. Office Manager Hilary Youdale’s first job with ERA was as Stewards’ Secretary in 1996 and her 5 staff process all of the registrations of licensees, horse registrations, entries, balloting, horse performances and racing results. Processing the entries and balloting is all done manually by Paul Devlin, Jason Coetzee and Steph Cooley. Jason and Paul both arrived in the UAE as successful Jockeys, Paul 11 years ago after riding successfully in South Africa and Macau, Jason 17 years ago having ridden successfully in South Africa Zimbabwe and Kenya. Steph arrived in 2016 after working in the USA at Fairgrounds Racecourse and Arlington, both in PR and as a raceday official and Lidia Lenz coordinates all of the licensing administration and coordinates the Simulcast. Lidia has spent the last two seasons at the ERA and is originally from Brazil. A key member of the office staff is Issam Hamad, as official Arabic-English translator, he is indispensable on entry and declaration days sorting out problems for the local trainers and jockeys.
The office Staff all ‘multiskill’ on racedays, with Hilary Youdale, Steph Cooley and Paul Devlin acting as Judge and Photo-finish operators, Jason Coetzee as Weighing Room Assistant and Clerk of the Scales and Lidia Lenz co-ordinating the Simulcast broadcasting and assisting the Judges team.
Another familiar name will be Shane Ryan who has been the ERA Starter here in UAE for the past 17 years. Shane arrived in the UAE as a work-rider having ridden over jumps in the UK for Reg Akehurst. Unlike the Starters in the UK, Shane and his team are closely involved in schooling young and problem horses through the stalls for local trainers on non-racedays, which he feels is a great advantage when these horses arrive at the start on racedays.
One thing that we have here at Meydan which I am very envious of are the Paddock Stewards and Outriders. Ghrainne Clancy’s team of Paddock Stewards ensure that the correct horses arrive in the paddock on time and with the correct gear. They also ensure the runners parade in the paddock in race card order and leave on time to proceed to the start. The runners are then escorted to the start by Dick Fear’s team of Outriders who also ensure that any loose horses are caught quickly. This all ensures delays are kept to a minimum and the percentage of races run to time here is very impressive.
With only 10 domestic meetings of the season left, last year’s Champion trainer Doug Watson still enjoys a commanding lead with 37 winners and AED 6,684,000 prize money with specialist Pure bred Arabian trainer Eric Lemartinel on 33 wins / AED 4,123,000. Tadhg O’Shea leads the riders table on 39 wins from Pat Cosgrave on 30 wins and Richard Mullen on 28.
All eyes are on Meydan this Thursday with the Nad Al Sheba trophy featuring Vazirabad and Sheikhzayedroad and the UAE Oaks with Rayya and Winter Lightning. More to follow…