Watson 'excited' after realising Group 1 dream in spectacular style at Fashion Friday race meeting

Veteran UAE trainer sends out Kabirkhan to win the Al Maktoum Challenge bonus race and earn an invitation to the Dubai World Cup

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Kabirkhan, ridden by Patrick Dobbs, emerges victorious in the Al Maktoum Challenge (Group 1) Presented by Longines at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. KT Photo by DRC
Kabirkhan, ridden by Patrick Dobbs, emerges victorious in the Al Maktoum Challenge (Group 1) Presented by Longines at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. KT Photo by DRC

Published: Fri 26 Jan 2024, 10:21 PM

Last updated: Sat 27 Jan 2024, 6:12 PM

It may have taken Doug Watson a while to land his first thoroughbred Group 1 success, but when it came on Fashion Friday at Meydan on Saturday it must have been the sweetest of wins for the distinguished eight-time UAE champion trainer.

However, and perhaps of greater significance, the genial American handler who has spent close to three decades in Dubai, can now dream of achieving the ultimate success of his career– a first Dubai World Cup victory.

The fairy tale was triggered by a former Russian trained, Khazikastan-owned and American-bred $12,000 purchase who goes by the name of Kabirkhan.

The four-year-old dominated a classy field to win the opening leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge Presented by Longines, run over 1,900 metres on the same dirt track as the Dubai World Cup, two months from now.

Measured Time, ridden by William Buick, wins the Jebel Hatta  (Group 1) Presented by Longines. KT Photo by M. Sajjad
Measured Time, ridden by William Buick, wins the Jebel Hatta (Group 1) Presented by Longines. KT Photo by M. Sajjad

The Al Maktoum Challenge also carried a bonus and Friday’s performance earned Kabirkhan a special invitation to the March 30 showpiece which is worth a staggering $12 million in prize money. And should he win that as well he will pocket an additional ten percent of the total purse.

Watson struggled to control his emotions after the tumultuous win which he described as exciting.

“This is our first Group 1 winner,” said the American who trains out of the Red Stables, one of the oldest in Dubai. That’s because there are not too many (Group 1s) for a stable like ours to run in, so it was really nice.

“I’m really pleased for the owners. Pat (Dobbs) gave him a great ride. It’s just really nice to have such a nice horse in the stable.

Mendelssohn Bay ridden by Patrick Cosgrave, takes out the UAE 2000  (Group 3) Presented by Longines. KT  Photo by M. Sajjad
Mendelssohn Bay ridden by Patrick Cosgrave, takes out the UAE 2000 (Group 3) Presented by Longines. KT Photo by M. Sajjad

“He takes kickback, which is going to serve him well in the future,” added Watson. We knew he was good but we didn’t know he could compete in races like these. But he loves the track.

“These wins are nice for the yard because everybody works very hard. We haven’t had too many wins this year but we still work as hard so it's nice to get some wins like this,” said Watson.

Commenting on plans for Kabirkhan the trainer said: “There’s the third leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge on Super Saturday but if they (connections) want to go straight to the World Cup I’m happy with that because he’s a horse that runs well fresh.”

Mouheeb, ridden by Tom Marquand, wins the Al Shindagah Sprint (Group 3) Presented by Longines . KT Photo by M. Sajjad
Mouheeb, ridden by Tom Marquand, wins the Al Shindagah Sprint (Group 3) Presented by Longines . KT Photo by M. Sajjad

The nine-race card, which was worth Dh 10 million in total, also featured two other Group 1 contests, the Jebel Hatta and UAE 2,000 Guineas.

The former was taken out in imperious fashion by Godolphin’s Measured Time and William Buick, while former champion handler Bhupat Seemar sent out Mendelssohn Bay to win the colt’s Classic under Pat Cosgrove.

Both winners received invitations to run in the corresponding race on Dubai World Cup night – the $6m Dubai Turf and the $2.5m UAE Derby.

Second-season handler Michael Costa continued his phenomenal run when Mouheeb made light of a 307-day break to streak home an impressive winner of the Al Shindagha Sprint, en route to a possible tilt at the $2,5million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 30.


More news from Sports