UAE horse racing: Al Ain off to a flyer, Jebel Ali under starter's order

This season encompasses 68 race meetings across the UAE’s five racecourses

Abdulaziz Al Balushi rides Qased Sb to victory in Al Ain on Friday. — ERA
Abdulaziz Al Balushi rides Qased Sb to victory in Al Ain on Friday. — ERA

By Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Fri 28 Oct 2022, 11:51 PM

Omani jockey Abdulaziz Al Balushi claimed the distinction of riding the first winner of the 2022–2023 UAE flat-racing season on Friday as Al Ain Racecourse got proceedings underway with a seven-race card.

If Al Balushi had any doubts about how his horse, Qased Sb, would perform after the long, seven-month summer break, they were dispelled emphatically by the Omani-bred son of the legendary Burning Sand, the leading stallion in the USA since 2006.

The strapping four-year-old took care of the mechanics in running and dominated his 14 rivals for a comfortable four and half-length victory.

The races that followed were well-contested and entertaining, setting the tone for a season that encompasses 68 race meetings across the UAE’s five racecourses.

Al Ain, the newest of the five facilities, will stage 14 race days and if the fare on offer on Friday was the benchmark, then racing fans are in for a treat over the next five months.

Meanwhile, Jebel Ali gets set to host the first of 11 meetings allocated by the Emirates Racing Authority on Saturday.

Built in 1990, the iconic venue with a climbing home stretch presents a massive test of skill to both horse and rider.

Michael Costa, the new resident trainer at Jebel Ali Racecourse who will be hoping to make an impression quickly, relies on stable star Mouheeb in the featured Shadwell Handicap over six furlongs.

Sydney-born Costa replaced Nicholas Bachalard at the yard that is steeped in history and has been a favourite of many racing greats including Sir Lester Piggott and Johnny Murtagh.

“I knew very little [about Dubai racing] when I got the call,” Costa told Thoroughbred Racing. “I watched the World Cup replays on YouTube and Australian sprinters when they raced here, but that was about it. It’s funny, when you work in racing you end up watching less racing, because you spend so much time with the horses, having that laser focus.

“I think the first year is about getting the winners and turning it around and then I’ll have a better idea in a few months about which horses can compete at a higher level.”

The mount of new stable jockey Jean Van Overmeire, Mouheeb made a winning debut over this course and distance in December 2020 and was runner-up to subsequent 2021 UAE Derby winner Rebel’s Romance (a dual Group 1 winner on turf this year and Breeders’ Cup bound) on his next start.

He then claimed a major prize in the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas but has not really built on that success. Saturday’s race will be his first start in handicap company as he significantly drops down in class.

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