Watson triggers $12m Dubai World Cup dream for Russian connections

Eight-time champion trainer saddles first two home in Dubai Island handicap at Meydan's Carnival on Friday

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

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Kabirkhan wins the Dubai Islands handicap Presented by Nakhell  at Meydan under jockey Pat Dobbs. - Photo Dubai Racing Club
Kabirkhan wins the Dubai Islands handicap Presented by Nakhell at Meydan under jockey Pat Dobbs. - Photo Dubai Racing Club

Published: Sat 13 Jan 2024, 12:35 AM

Eight-time UAE champion handler Doug Watson has made a reputation for himself as a go-to trainer for East European-raced horses and he demonstrated just why when he sent out two exciting Russian-owned gallopers to finish one-two in the Dubai Islands handicap Presented by Nakheel at Meydan on Friday.

Kabirkhan, a Kentucky-bred son of former Dubai World Cup (G1) scorer California Chrome, eclipsed a quality field to win the 2,000 metres dirt contest in telling fashion under Watson’s long-time stable jockey Pat Dobbs.

What was particularly impressive about the performance of the four-year-old who was making his Meydan debut, and first start after a gap of 132 days, was how he coped with a less-than-favourable run.

Forced to race wide after a poor start, Kabirkhan made good progress at the top of the home straight and once asked for his effort he produced a set of gears that saw him dominate what was left of the contest to cross the line four lengths clear of stable companion and fellow Russian raider, Hero Mo, under Sam Hitchcott.

Kabirkhan in the winner's enclosure after winning the Dubai Islands handicap Presented by Nakhell  at Meydan under jockey Pat Dobbs. - Photo Dubai Racing Club
Kabirkhan in the winner's enclosure after winning the Dubai Islands handicap Presented by Nakhell at Meydan under jockey Pat Dobbs. - Photo Dubai Racing Club

Watson revealed that the owners of Kabirkhan, a $12,000 purchase at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, had aspirations for the Dubai World Cup on March 30.

"That's what they brought them over here for," the trainer said at Meydan. "I'd love to run in it but let's see what happens in the next few weeks. I think they'd both do well in the second leg of the Maktoum Challenge (Jan. 26). I think they'd be competitive in that."

As the new-look Dubai World Cup Carnival gathered more pace Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby and stable jockey Williams Buick combined to take out the Al Wasl Sakes, a six-furlong turf contest, with the homebred filly Star of Mystery.

Star of Mystery wins the Al Wasl Stakes with William Buick. - Photo Dubai Racing Club
Star of Mystery wins the Al Wasl Stakes with William Buick. - Photo Dubai Racing Club

Buick’s mount delivered a solid effort to have the measure of Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) third, Starlust.

Buick commented: “Star Of Mystery jumped slowly, but she was in the stalls for a while and had not run for some time either. I didn’t really mind because she does like passing horses.

“She is a strong traveller and I managed to find the horses that she had to beat. I was quite taken with the way she travelled to the furlong-and-a-half pole. She has plenty of energy but, when she can channel it in the right direction, she is a very good filly.”

Trainer Charlie Appleby was not in attendance but told the Godolphin website: “We were very happy with Star Of Mystery, who had been pleasing us going into the race. The next natural step is the Dubai Trophy over the same course and distance next month.”

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Former champion trainer Bhupat Seemar had to wait a while before he could score back-to-back wins in the first two races of the nine-event card.

Lesser fancied Border Edge won the Palm West Beach handicap Presented by Nakheel under former champion apprentice Andrew Slattery from Ireland while Tadhg O’Shea opened his account for the day aboard Webinar in The Palm Crown handicap Presented by Nakheel.


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