Early pointers to the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic are among the evening’s highlights as Meydan Racecourse stages its third meeting of the season on Friday.
The opening Group 2 Madjani Stakes [Presented by Longines], for Arabians over 1900metres, is a fascinating contest, with two Group 1 winners among the field of 15. Rajeh (pictured), winner of the G1 Maktoum Challenge R2 over this course and distance in February, must concede weight to his rivals who include Deryan, winner of the 2021 G1 Dubai Kahayla Classic, and now in the care of Abu Dhabi-based trainer Majed Al Jahouri.
“We are trying a visor on him,” says jockey Antonio Fresu, who maintains his partnership with Rajeh. “He should be better after his run in Abu Dhabi, especially going back on the dirt. The draw  is not ideal, but he’s always been a good horse, so he should do well.”
Fresu also has a nice ride in the 1400metre Graduate Stakes [Presented by Longines], race two, which is limited to horses bought at the recent Racing in Dubai Sales. He partners On The Warpath, a Carnival winner for Godolphin, who has made an excellent start to life with Musabbeh Al Mheiri, despite not yet collecting a win.
“On The Warpath has a good draw ,” he says. “He might need the race and he has a lot of weight, but he should improve this season. Obviously, it’s not an easy race, having Royal Mews and Island Rule in there, but he should run well.”
Bhupat Seemar’s Royal Mews, a three and three-quarter length winner here over a mile in February, looks a big danger, while Ahmad Bin Harmash’s Island Rule gets his optimum trip here and chased home Raaeb over course and distance two weeks ago.
The most valuable race of the day is race five, the AED105,000 Longines Master Collection Handicap, over 1200metres, for which eight have been declared.
They include Al Mheiri’s Carnival winner Mutaraffa, who makes just his third start on dirt, and Rashed Bouresly’s El Baareq, a winner at Jebel Ali three weeks ago. They go up against Salem Bin Ghadayer’s Meshakel, making his second start of the season, while the Doug Watson-trained Wild Majesty tries dirt for the first time.
Race three, the Longines Dolcevita Collection Maiden, for two-year-olds over 1400metres, has only three in the race with previous experience. Alsahib finished a good fifth here three weeks ago, ahead of Mr Precocious, while Chief Of Navy finished seventh on his only UK start. The rest make their debuts, including two for trainer Michael Costa who has had four winners from just 22 runners since arriving in the UAE. He sends out Mouneef, a son of Midnight Lute, and Flatter colt Seyouff, the choice of stable jockey Jean Van Overmeire.
“He’ll stay all day, so this will be too sharp for him,” says the trainer of Mouneef. “He’s a horse who, if he’s talented enough, will definitely appreciate a Derby trip. He’s looking to gather a bit of race experience and he’d only really be warming up if they went a second lap.
“Seyouff has been very forward in his jump outs, so I think he’s well above average. He’s drawn a little bit tricky  so he’s going to need a good run in transit from his jockey, but he’s worth following, he’s a horse I’ve got a lot of time for.”
Costa sends out Alhzeem and Reybaal in race four, the Longines Legend Driver Collection Maiden, with the latter the pick of the pair. “Alhzeem is drawn well and goes a mile first up,” he says. “He’s had a few little ups and downs to get him to the races, so he’ll need the run and I’d look for him second or third up over a bit further.
“Reybaal is on a quick back up. He had a small setback after his first run, just pulled up a little bit tight, so he missed a bit of work going into Jebel Ali last weekend, so he’ll strip fitter. He’s a horse who gets really hot in the yard, so I’m hoping that the trip away and the run has just taken the edge off him and will help him settle better. He’s got a win in him, somewhere, once we place him right.”
The Costa pair face stiff opposition from Emdakam, second over course and distance when last seen 11 months ago, and State Event, a son of Shamardal and British 1000 Guineas winner Blue Bunting, who makes his debut for Ahmad Bin Harmash.
The longest race of the day is the 2200metre Longines Record Collection Handicap, race six, which has 12 runners including Al Nayyir, an impressive winner here three weeks ago, and Qareeb who landed a 1900metre event a fortnight ago. They are both trained by Watson, whose stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, rides Al Nayyir, with Sam Hitchcott doing the steering on Qareeb.
Costa is struggling to choose between his pair in the closing Longines Spirit Collection Handicap, over a mile, but Tahdeed gets the vote of Overmeire, who must overcome stall 14.
“I really can’t split these two, they’ve been running well,” says the trainer. “Nibraas got to the line really well last start and will appreciate the distance step up. Tahdeed; we learned a little about him in the last run. He didn’t get onto the fresh leg [switch leads] until late and then he really attacked the line. It was difficult for Jean to pick between the two as they’re both in good form but drawn a little bit wide.”
Opposition to the Costa pair includes Road Bloc, an impressive winner in maiden company on just his second start three weeks’ ago. He lines up for trainer Osama Refai and owner Sayed Hashish, who is hopeful of another big run.
“I was very happy with Road Bloc,” he says. “I told Antonio [Fresu, jockey] some days before the race that I have a very good feeling about the horse, one I didn’t have since [Listed winner] Mark Of Approval.
“It’s a difficult race on Friday, but I think he will improve. Antonio has to ride for his stable but we have a good jockey in Pat Cosgrave taking over.”