Watson hopes for some Christmas joy at Meydan’s ‘Festive Friday’ meeting

Eight-time champion handler saddles leading chance Isolate in featured Dh1 million Al Maktoum Mile

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

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Isolate winning the Group 2 Godolphin Mile under Tyler Gaffalione at the Dubai World Cup meeting in March this year. - Khaleej Times File
Isolate winning the Group 2 Godolphin Mile under Tyler Gaffalione at the Dubai World Cup meeting in March this year. - Khaleej Times File

Published: Thu 21 Dec 2023, 7:03 PM

Last updated: Thu 21 Dec 2023, 7:05 PM

Trainer Doug Watson will be hoping that the highly-regarded Isolate can bring some early festive cheer to his eight-time championship-winning Red Stables by taking out the Group 2 Al Maktoum Mile, one of multiple highlights on a talent-stacked nine race card at Meydan racecourse on Friday.

The five-year-old son of American stallion Mark Valeski has been campaigned in the top tier races in the UAE with Watson now confirming that the connections of the seven-race winner are even aiming higher by nominating him for the richest race in the world – the $20 million Saudi Cup on February 24 in Riyadh.

However, prior to taking that huge step up in class Isolate will be tested against some of the best milers in the UAE, starting with Friday’s Al Maktoum Mile as the flagship racecourse hosts its ‘Festive Friday’ meeting, the first of three themed, big meeting that lead up to the $30.5 million Dubai World Cup meeting on March 30, next year.

Looking ahead to Isolate’s season debut, his first race in nine months, since his career-best performance when winning the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on the big day itself.

“Isolate’s in great form at home,” Watson told Khaleej Times. “We had him over at Meydan four times to work and I think we’ve got him pretty close. It’s a tough enough race, drawn six which shouldn’t be a problem.

Dubai’s iconic racing venue hosts ‘Festive Friday’, the first of its three big meetings in the build up to the $30.5m Dubai World Cup in March. - Khaleej Times File
Dubai’s iconic racing venue hosts ‘Festive Friday’, the first of its three big meetings in the build up to the $30.5m Dubai World Cup in March. - Khaleej Times File

“I’m hoping for the best form. I know the connections have nominated him to the Saudi Cup, which is an extra two furlongs to the Godolphin Mile. So, we’ll see how to plan after the race and see how he comes out it as he has been a while (272 days).”

Watson also runs another stable favourite, Golden Goal, a veteran at nine who has also been a high achiever himself.

“Golden Goals is in good form,” said Watson. “He ran a really nice race in his first start and should improve for that. “He has a bad draw on the night (Gate 9 of 10) and will have to make a little luck for himself, but he’s in great form.”

The threat to Watson’s pair could come from the former Championship winning Zabeel Stabbles where trainer Bhupat Seemar saddles two contenders led by stable stalwart, Secret Ambition, and the lightly-raced Royal Mews.

The meeting always hosts it first turf contests of the season including the Group 2 Al Rashidya, which has been welcomed with open arms by the all-powerful Team Godolphin.

Meydan specialist Real World leads a four-horse contingent as Godolphin hope to win the nine-furlong contest for the eighth successive year.

Trained by the redoubtable Saeed bin Suroor the six-year-old was last seen staying on strongly in the G2 Bahrain International Trophy.

The trainer commented: “This will be Real World’s first start at Meydan since the Dubai Turf but he came out of his run in Bahrain in good order. He has been working well and nine furlongs is a good trip for him.”

Godolphin’s big-race winning handler Charlie Appleby sends out his first runners of the season with Ottoman Fleet set to make his fourth start at Meydan.

Runner-up in the Al Rashidiya last season the four-year-old delivered some noteworthy performances in Europe and North America this summer including a special one where he landed the G2 Fort Marcy Stakes at Belmont Park.

Appleby, who also saddles Measured Time and Highland Avenue, said: ”Ottoman Fleet has enjoyed a nice break since his American campaign. He had a racecourse gallop along with Measured Time at Chelmsford before heading out to Dubai, and they both came out of it well. It looks a competitive race, but he should be bang there.

“We feel that Measured Time has sharpened up for his run at Kempton Park and we are removing the hood this time as well. This is a step up in quality but he goes into it in good form and we are confident that he can be a big player.

“Highland Avenue was a good winner at Newmarket in the autumn and ran his race out in Bahrain last time. He has experience around Meydan and will be competitive based on the pick of his form,” added Appleby.

The third feature of the evening is the Listed Entisar, also over nine furlongs, but on dirt.

Watson’s Everfast looks the pick of the nine runners and should take all the beating.

“I really like Everfast in the Entisar,” said the handler. “He has a great draw and it is not the hardest renewal of the race.

“He was third in the second and third legs of the Maktoum Challenge a few years ago. He is trainer really good so hopefully he has a chance.”

Another interesting race is the Listed Ertijaal Dubai Dash over the straight five furlongs where Appleby sends out Mischief Magic, who capped a wonderful two-year-old campaign in 2022 when winning the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.


Appleby said: “We know that Mischief Magic is the class horse in the field if he manages to rekindle his juvenile form. We were pleased to get him back to winning ways at Kempton and then the race didn’t pan out how we expected at Lingfield.

“He came out of the race fine and we are heading into this with an open mind for the rest of the Carnival.”

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