The 1600m Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile, the biggest race of the Jebel Ali season, is the undoubted highlight of seven races on Friday afternoon and Secret Ambition will attempt to become the fourth dual winner of the prize he landed in 2018 for Satish Seemar.
Of the three previous horses to win the race twice, only Treble Jig won in consecutive seasons and the 8-year-old Exceed And Excel entire did not attempt to defend his crown last year, instead contesting the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1, finishing an excellent narrow second in the 1600m Dubai World Cup Carnival feature.
Seemar’s charge, the mount of Tadhg O’Shea, has won half of his six Jebel Ali appearances and has the benefit of a run this season, finishing second in the 1600m Listed Dubai Creek Mile in December, a race he won in 2019, his most recent visit to the winner’s enclosure.
He is owned by Nasir Askar, as is stable companion Above Normal, the mount of Connor Beasley and Seemar also saddles Ode To Autumn, to be ridden by Richard Mullen.
Seemar said: “We had the Maktoum Challenge option again with Secret Ambition, but I was very keen to run here and the owner has agreed.
“All three are in good form at home and, importantly, are proven at Jebel Ali where they have all won. Hopefully they can all run well.”
Doug Watson has four chances in a race he has won thrice, most recently with Shamaal Nibras in 2018 for EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club). For the same owners Adrie de Vries partners Grand Argentier in this year’s renewal and he is joined by Gabr, the mount of Dane O’Neill riding for his main employer Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as well as Galvanize and Canvassed, the mounts of Sam Hitchcott and Pat Dobbs respectively.
A pragmatic Watson said: “Secret Ambition is going to be very hard to beat, but we have four nice horses who all hold a chance. Hopefully one of them can step up and land the prize.”
O’Neill could have ridden Sheikh Hamdan’s Alkaamel, one of two in the race for Musabbeh Al Mheiri, seeking a fifth win in the race since 2011 and who introduces local debutant Deemster, formerly trained in France by Andre Fabre for Godolphin. Ryan Curatolo rides the latter with Antonio Fresu having opted to partner Alkaamel.
“Deemster is a new horse us and we are still learning about him,” Al Mheiri said. “We need to see how he copes with the surface and hill, so this looked a good opportunity to try him.
“Alkaamel was a pleasing second at Meydan last time so arrives in good form and should run well because he is basically a straightforward, tough, honest horse.”
Last year’s renewal went the way of Chiefdom, ridden by Royston Ffrench for Salem bin Ghadayer, the combination represented this time by Hypothetical, an impressive winner on his local debut over 1600m at Meydan, chased home by Alkaamel. A 4-year-old Lope De Vega colt, he is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum as is stable companion Blown By Wind, the mount of Xavier Ziani and third in that same race won by Hypothetical, also on his first start locally.
Bin Ghadayer said: “They are two nice, new, horses in the yard this season and both pleased us on their local debuts at Meydan.
“We are looking forward to stepping them up in class, but Jebel Ali conditions are very different, and it looks a tough race this year.”
The field of 12 is completed by Court House, making his first start for Simon Crisford, having won thrice in Britain for John Gosden, each success registered on an all-weather surface. His final appearance for Gosden was when chasing home then stable companion Dubai Warrior in the 2000m Group 3 Winter Derby. James Doyle rides the 6-year-old Dawn Approach gelding on what will be a dirt debut and first in the colours of Rabbah Racing.
Assistant trainer, Ed Crisford, said: “We also entered him at Meydan in the Maktoum Challenge, but opted for Jebel Ali, as has Secret Ambition, so it looks a strong race.
“At least we will find out if he handles the Jebel Ali surface and the stiff 1600m should suit him at the trip as he has won over 2400m. If the track suits him, the 1950m Jebel Ali Stakes could be an option looking ahead.”