Dubai Long-serving Godolphin handler Saeed Bin Surour has had more than his fair share of moments in the winner’s enclosure at Meydan Racecourse.
Nonetheless, it looked, to some extent, unusual to see him collecting the silver on the opening night’s racing at the UAE’s flagship racecourse on Thursday night.
Bin Surour traditionally sends out his first runners of the season on the first day of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, in early January, but he broke out of routine to saddle three runners, including Naaeebb, a smart winner of the Emirates A380 Handicap.
A three-year-old son of Darley stallion Lonhro, Naaeebb looked a nice horse for the future, and the dirt track at Meydan, when posting a cosy victory under a confident Pat Cosgrave.
Explaining the decision to start his season earlier than normal Bin Surour said: “We thought it would be a good idea to bring some horses who have yet to fulfil their promise, over from Newmarket to Dubai, to see how they fare on the dirt.
“I wouldn’t say they’re good horses at this point, but yes they are nice horses. The plan is to run them early and should they perform well we can think of running them in the Carnival, provided their rating improves as well.
“My maid string will arrive later, but for the time being we’ll concentrate on the ten that we’ve brought over early.
“Naaeebb has always struck me as a horse waiting to show his real ability and I like how he ran today,” added Bin Surour, an eight time champion trainer at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.
“He handed the dirt pretty well and will obviously come on for this run. He’s the kind of horse that we selected as part of this experiment and it’s paying off and we couldn’t be happier to have our first winner so early in the season.”
Cosgrave also had some positive things to say about Naaeebb.
“We had a bad draw but he was always going well and took me into the race effortlessly,” he said.
“Remember, he is only three and having his first start on dirt, taking on some seasoned performers. I thought I was going to win easily but he did not really know what to do.
“He has won now and is a horse for the future; he is only going to improve with racing and experience.”
Meanwhile, Bin Surour’s two other runners, Desert Mountain and Dowayla, may need some more time to find their feet after sixth and eight in their respective races.
The former, ridden by Italian Antonio Fresu did not make much of impression in the Emirates Holidays Handicap over 1400 metres, but the winner, Rothenburg did after overcoming a wide draw to record a length and a quarter victory over Street of Dreams, representing champion trainer Doug Watson.
“He excited us from the moment we bought him,” said Al Alawi. “We were very confident he would run well, despite the draw and, as you saw, he was very green and remains a big baby.
“Hopefully, with that experience under his belt, he will improve and we think he is a nice horse.”
Watson, who was just off the mark with two seconds early in the night, closed out the seven racecard by winning the concluding two races.
The emirates.com handicap was won by Sam Hitchcott aboard Almanaara who was having only his second start in the UAE and first at Meydan.
“He has improved physically over the summer and won that well tonight. It was a very good performance and he is a nice horse,” said the jockey.
The feature race of the evening, the Emirates Airline handicap, was won by Tadhg O’Shea aboard the Ali Rashid Al Rayhi-trained Trinity Force, who prevailed by a neck from Mizbah, the mount of Pat Dobbs.
“I was pretty confident coming into the race with our nice low weight,” explained O’Shea. “We knew there was going to be a fast gallop and that suits this horse so from our low draw, I was in the ideal position to stalk the speed.
“I won on Mizbah last season so knew he would be tough to pass but we managed to in the end.
“He’s knows his way around this track better than me.”