By Mikhil Bhat/Doha
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Thani’s Gazwan and Khalifa bin Sheail al-Kuwari’s The Blue Eye will be going for their respective triples when Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club’s (QREC) Al Rayyan Park plays host to Qatar’s highest profile and richest races tomorrow.
The three-day His Highness The Amir’s Sword Racing Festival will conclude with million-dollar features for both the Thoroughbreds and the Purebred Arabians tomorrow.
While eight-year-old Gazwan, trained by Julian Smart, will be hoping to win his third HH The Amir Sword (Group 1 PA), the feature for the Arabians, Jassim Mohamed Ghazali’s ward, The Blue Eye, will be looking to top HH The Amir’s Trophy (QA Gr1) for the third time.
Smart has had a great run in Qatar’s biggest prize in Arabian racing, having won six out of the last eight editions. In the last ten editions, only Gazwan and Alban de Mieulle-trained Al Dahma have won the Sword twice, and the latter did it back in 2009 and 2010.
The French trainer has Yazeed and Tayf, both Umm Qarn colts, in the mile-and-a-half Arabian feature tomorrow. While Yazeed has done well against Gazwan’s younger stablemate Ebraz, himself a Sword winner in 2017, the mile-and-a-half has proven to be a challenge for the former, finishing third on his only outing over the distance at the last year’s running.
With the field for the Sword down to nine this year, traffic shouldn’t be a problem for the big names.
“I spoke to Yazeed this morning and he said ‘I will try my best’,” De Mieulle said at the draw ceremony yesterday morning, evoking a hearty laugh from the audience.
De Mieulle drew stall 3 for his ward, who would be helmed by Olivier Peslier. “I think it will be a nice race. Sometimes with a few good horses and a big field, you sometimes get stuck behind. Pace is good for all horses and it means the best horse wins. Now it is between the jockey and the horse.”
Tayf, who last won the Qatar International Stakes at Goodwood in 2017, will start the widest in stall 9 with Ronan Thomas in the saddle. De Mieulle’s ward, Al Walid, to be run by Qatari jockey Faleh Bughanaim in the colours of Al Shaqab Racing, drew gate 2, while the other Al Shaqab colt in the race, Rijm, trained by Thomas Fourcy in France, has gate 4.
Ebraz will have Maxime Guyon for company when he lines up for the inside line off gate 1, while Gazwan starts in gate 6 with Theo Bachelot.
Tayf will have Smart’s pacemaker Aaley Al Magam for company to his right in eighth stall, while Zuhair Mohsen-trained Jabal Aramoon starts from gate seven.
“With nine Arabians going a mile-and-a-half, the draw really doesn’t make that much of a difference,” Smart told Gulf Times.
“We have our pacemaker Aaley Al Magam in eighth, hopefully he will go forward and we will see if there is anything to challenge him or not, but hopefully he will get a lead. But draws otherwise are fine, Gazwan in six is perfect and even Ebraz down at 1 is not much of a problem. I would have taken the three outside draws too without a problem.”
Ghazali’s only runner in the Arabian feature, Spaghetti, winner of HH The Amir Silver Sword in 2016, will start right in the middle in gate five.
The Blue Eye was the first name to be drawn for mile-and-a-half HH The Amir Trophy (QA Gr1), and will start in gate 10. The seven-year-old will have champion jockey Harry Bentley for company as the Dubawi colt hopes to surpass the other Ghazali ward, Dubday, who registered two wins in the big Thoroughbred race in the last 10 editions.
The Blue Eye will be joined by Ibrahim al-Malki-trained Pazeer, winner of the Trial race, to lead the local challenge. The latter will start next door in 11.
Al Wasmiyah Farm’s Noor Al Hawa, runner-up in the last two editions, will start from gate 12.
One of the most sought-after events internationally, the Trophy race will see competition from four countries, besides hosts Qatar.
Aidan O’Brien has sent Hunting Horn, who will start from gate six with Ryan Moore in the saddle.
French duo Royal Julius, from the stables of young Jerome Reynier, and His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani’s French King, trained by Henri-Alex Pantall, will start alongside each other in eight and nine respectively.
American trainer Michael McCarthy has Liam The Charmer, a Grade 2 winner at Santa Anita last year, in the race and will start from gate 5, while Richard Hannon-trained Raymond Tusk will start the million-dollar Thoroughbred feature the widest in 15.
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