Both Dane O’Neill and Tadhg O’Shea enjoyed success at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday, with the former claiming a brace of winners, including the afternoon highlight, the 1,200m Al Naboodah Electrical turf handicap aboard Ejaaby.
Trained by local UAE champion Doug Watson, Ejaaby was slow away, but eased into contention by halfway before quickening impressively to lead 300m out and run on strongly to win by a neck.
O’Neill, completing a double on the card, said: “In the end, everything has worked out well, but he idled a bit at the start and then lugged left at one stage. If you look at his English form, he has done that before, so I was not overly surprised.
“Ideally, we would have had something to race with in the early stages but he was going quicker than those around him so we did not,” O’Neill continued. “Over the last few weeks, this horse has been getting noticeably quicker in his work at home so we were hoping for a big run tonight and he has not disappointed.”
The opening part of O’Neill’s double came courtesy of Waqqad, trained by Kuwaiti Rashed Bouresly, in the 1,400m Al Naboodah Group Enterprises – Automotive turf maiden restricted to three-year-olds.
Second on his debut over 1,000m at Jebel Ali last Friday, O’Neill’s mount broke relatively slowly. In midfield at halfway, the pair loomed as big dangers 600m out and hit the front soon after before running on relentlessly to win in style.
O’Neill said: “He ran well at Jebel Ali on that one previous start when, as always over 1,000m, they went fast and hard. He is a big horse who takes a while to get into stride so did very well to finish second there. This longer trip has certainly been in his favour, as he still took probably three furlongs to get organised, and the switch to dirt did not faze him. He is a nice, big horse with I would think plenty of scope and capable of improving with time.”
O’Neill’s fellow Irish jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, won the opening race on the card the Al Naboodah Cargo 1,900m dirt maiden when the Ali Rashid Al Rayhi-trained Mears opened his account at the 12th attempt. Ridden confidently by O’Shea, he was settled behind the early pace before he swept past at the top of the straight and never looked likely to be caught.
“Obviously I missed Thursday here at Meydan and a winner on Janszoon when I was suspended, but I am back now and raring to go,” O’Shea said. “We had a perfect draw in three and I was able to get a lovely lead into the race and then he picked up really well. He actually jumped a shadow about a furlong out so I think he had a bit left.
The winning rider continued: “Ali and his team have the horses in great form and finally this horse has put his head in front which is great for his owner, Jumaa Mubarak Al Junaibi, who is a big supporter of the yard.”