Tell Alban de Mieulle that on Yazeed’s form, he seems to have HH The Emir’s Sword (Gr1 PA) in the bag, and the Frenchman only breaks into a laughter.
“I would like to. Tell Julian (Smart) to hold his horse (back),” he laughs.
It’s been that kind of a season when it comes to the big Arabian races. Umm Qarn’s five-year-old colt and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Thani’s Ebraz, the winner of the 2017 edition of the million dollar feature, have been putting up a fantastic show for the racegoers every time they have lined up for the prize together.
Yazeed has won every race he has entered at the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club this season, including twice when he beat Ebraz, albeit never by more than quarter of a length.
The son of Munjiz and the two-time Emir’s Sword winning-mare Al Dahma, also trained by De Mieulle, has never run a mile and a half (2400m). The closest he has come to running that distance was in the Trial earlier this month and in the HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani Silver Cup last season, both over 2200m.
And while Ebraz lost out by half a length in January last year, in the Trials, with Ebraz skipping the outing, Yazeed primed up for the big race this Saturday with a four-length victory over another Smart ward, Shabih Alreeh.
“Yes, some have said that he has not done 2400m but he did 2200m last time and (jockey) Olivier (Peslier) is very confident about it,” De Mieulle tells Gulf Times.
In the last 10 editions of the Emir’s Sword, De Mieulle has won the big one thrice, with Al Dahma in 2009 and 2010, and more recently in 2013 with Tabarak.
Four editions have passed since his last victory, and the closest he has come to winning Qatar’s most prestigious Arabian race is with Tayf, who finished second behind Smart’s Ebraz, last year. Smart on the other hand has won thrice since 2013, including last two consecutive editions – with Gazwan in 2016 and Ebraz in 2017.
“It is pressure, of course, but between you and me, I have never trained a horse of this quality. Yazeed is the first Arabian I have trained of this quality,” De Mieulle is rather candid.
The last time Yazeed was beaten was by Gazwan in the 2017 Qatar Arabian World Cup over the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weekend, and before that by Ebraz in the Qatar Cup – Prix Dragon in Chantilly.
“Last year, after he beat Ebraz in the HH Sheikh Abdullah (Bin Khalifa Al Thani Silver) Cup, we prepared him for the Emir’s Sword. But unfortunately a week before he had a foot abscess,” De Mieulle explains. “He had it for three-four months. He would limp sometimes, couldn’t move around comfortably till it healed completely.
“So we couldn’t start with him till September in Chantilly. But then again, I had only received him in training in June. There was only a month really to get him ready. And then he raced in the Qatar Arabian World Cup but he wasn’t fit enough.”
Another Umm Qarn horse, Sehab, will also line up in the 2400m race this Saturday.
The challenge, however, De Mieulle has no doubts, will be between “Gazwan, Ebraz and Yazeed”. “We know that.”
De Mieulle has put his faith in veteran Peslier this time too, and having ridden Yazeed to three victories, “he knows Yazeed very well too”.
So what’s he expecting on Saturday?
“He (Yazeed) is a good horse. I am confident. He is very, very well. I am only worried about one thing – the traffic during the race. I don’t know how many of them are going to be in the race. If you have good fast horses, it is a normal race, but if you have some who have held back and if your horse is behind them, then he is stuck. That is what worries me. But if you have a good jockey, it should be okay,” he says.
The draw ceremony for the international races, including the HH The Emir’s Sword (Gr1 PA) and HH The Emir’s Trophy (Gr1), will be held tomorrow, before the three-day HH The Emir’s Sword Racing Festival begins on Thursday.
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