Postcard from Meydan: Part 2

16 Jan 18

The second part of BHA Stipendiary Steward Adrian Sharpe’s blog reporting on his secondment to the Emirates Racing Authority for the UAE season. 

This week Meydan hosted the first Dubai World Cup Carnival (DWCC) meeting of 2018. Anticipation has been building steadily since I arrived but especially so since the meeting here on 21st December when the Turf track opened and 3 local DWCC  favourites, Heavy Metal, Etijaah (USA) and Muarrab  advertised their wellbeing with convincing wins. Walking the turf course before racing, one couldn’t help but be impressed by the turf management, all under the control of Track Manager Paddy Baker. The track was re-seeded in November with Bermuda grass, over-sown with rye and its condition by the first turf meeting last Thursday is nothing short of spectacular. Paddy explained that he will move the rail in or out by 4ms, from ‘true’ to 12ms over the course of the turf season. With a track width of 30 ms   and only 54 turf races all season, the optimum use of the 1m4f turf circuit is achieved right the way up the World Cup evening. The bends are beautifully cambered, with a 2 ¼ F straight on the round course and a 6f straight sprint track.

First turf day ‘course-walk’; L/R Paddy Baker (Track Manager), Taylor Wilson (Steward) and Sam Shinsky (Head Steward)

The  DWC Carnival entries have just been published with 132 acceptances from 15 different countries across the Globe including 14 different Grade 1 winners. Pulling this all together has to be the most impressive logistical feat in International Horseracing and it is all the responsibility of Frank Gabriel’s International Racing Liaison Department headed by Aimee Grieve, together with Sarah Judge and International Quarantine Stables manager Feargal Cooper. The International Quarantine Stables, located just beyond the back straight is an ‘oasis of calm’, with spacious boxes, large areas of grass and walkways, together with luxury staff residences (including a swimming pool) and catering supplied by Meydan Hotel.

On a recent visit with our Regulatory Veterinary Officer (RVO) Belinda Rose it was great to bump into some familiar faces including Trainer Brendan Powell  (De Bruyne Horse) and Lesley White (M Channon – Opal Tiara) who had just arrived.

Our non-raceday Stewards’ duties have also stepped up a few gears with Sam Shinsky overseeing and arranging our visits to the International Stables for out of competition testing and Taylor Wilson being responsible for the licensing of all visiting personnel including Trainers, Jockeys, Work Riders, Assistant Trainers, Travelling Head Lads and Stable Staff. Our RVO Belinda Rose is also kept busy advising the visitors on veterinary issues, monitoring the health and wellbeing of the Equine stars and conducting out of competition testing with us Stewards. This has been a fascinating and valuable experience for me and underlines the vast range of duties which Stipes from other jurisdictions are responsible for.

Stewards’ Main Viewing Box

The first DWCC meeting was very busy for us with multiple interference enquiries, a whip enquiry and one or two other enquiries. Meydan’s Stewarding facilities are ‘state of the art’ with the Hawkeye Steward’s replay system playing back HD images on the World’s biggest plasma TV screen. Raceday Stewarding here in Dubai continues to be very interesting and now that I have sat on a few enquiries, the whip and interference rules are very simple and although written differently, the application is very similar to the UK. The Stewards’ main viewing box is pretty impressive as well and not dissimilar to York and Ascot back home.

Notwithstanding the busy Stewards’ Room, the racing was fantastic on Thursday, the highlight for me being the  electric display of local DWCC favorite Ertijaal(IRE) (Jim Crowley- A R Al Rayhi) who blitzed the US$160,000 1000m handicap under top weight, in a time only .12 seconds outside of his own track record. Frankyfourfingers and Heavy Metal were also impressive local winners bringing a double for Mickael Barzalona and trainer S bin Ghadayer.

The domestic racing scene is in full swing with Tadhg O’Shea leading the rider’s table with 25 wins and AED 2,375,000 prize money, whilst being chased by other UK regulars Pat Cosgrave, Pat Dobbs, Richard Mullen, Royston Ffrench, Connor Beasley, Dane O’Neill and Sam Hitchcott. Silvestre De Sousa, William Buick, James Doyle and Jim Crowley have recently arrived and have quickly made their mark. With other top international riders soon to arrive, the riding honors will become highly competitive.

Last season’s Champion Doug Watson still leads the trainers’ table with 24 wins and AED 3,038,796 prize money, with leading Purebred Arabian Trainer Eric Lemartinel on 21 wins in second place.

The next DWCC meeting is this Thursday 18 January and features the US$175,000 Group 3 Dubawi Stakes, entries are out and its looks to be another exciting evening’s racing…more to follow!