Watson excited for new UAE season

After more than a quarter-century in Dubai, six-time UAE champion trainer Doug Watson still gets excited this time of year, especially with the UAE flat season commencing at Meydan Racecourse for the first time on October 24. The six-time champion trainer exits a good, but not spectacular-by-his-standards season in 2018-19—winning 37 races and finishing third behind Ernst Oertel and Satish Seemar—and appears keenly focused to set out for lucky number seven in 2019-20. 

“I’m really looking forward to it and I always do, but this year we have some excellent returning older horses and some good young ones,” Watson said. “We will have our big horses like Muntazah (pictured above with Watson), Kimbear and Drafted back in the barn, but also picking up some good American horses like (multiple G3 winner) Switzerland and (G2-placed stakes winner) All Out Blitz.

“Some of our 2-year-olds are very exciting,” he continued. “We picked up one in the (Racing in Dubai) Sale named Welcome Surprise and have 11 unraced ones who will hopefully be ready soon. We had a Munnings colt trial who looks like a nice one named Cosmo Kramer. It was a little sooner than we wanted to, but hopefully the trial helps him get ready for a race. It should get him pretty close to running six furlongs (on opening day) and he will work this week. I also have nice fillies by Candy Ride and Honor Code, a Tapiture colt and a Stay Thirsty colt who seems to work well.

“We look forward to them. You have to imagine for 14 years or so we would only get a couple 2-year-olds and couldn’t really compete in those bigger races like the (UAE) Derby, but now we’re at a point where you think you have a shot at those. It’s exciting to have them and the older horses at the same time.”

While it might not have been a vintage Watson year in 2018-19, he did earn about $3.2 million in prize money for his Red Stables, which was more than the championship seasons of 2017-18 and 2016-17. He will be looking to meet and exceed seasons like that of the 2015-16, when he won at a 19% clip, hit the board 44% of the time and earned in excess of $3.7 million. That, of course, was the year the two-time winner of the Godolphin Mile finished an unforgettable 1-2-3 in the 1600m seven-figure affair with One Man Band, Faulkner and Cool Cowboy.

“It wasn’t a bad season by any means, it just wasn’t our best season,” Watson said. “We had run so many races the years prior, so some of those horses were up in the handicap and a few came down. Sometimes that’s what it comes down to, but this year we hope to have horses ready to do well. I have 90 in the barn right now and hopefully will have over 100 in the next few weeks. We still have horses coming from Europe and we look forward to going to the October sale.”

While down the line the “best in the barn,” Muntazah, will be aimed at the Dubai World Cup with a DWC Carnival commencement to his campaign, the immediate future has the American expat thrilled to find out if the next version of said track record holder is rising at the right time. No matter what happens in the first flush of the season, history tells us that one can be assured any horse staring through a Watson-white bridle is in with a big chance.

A septet of races have been upgraded for the 2019-2020 season at Meydan Racecourse, including six during the Dubai World Cup Carnival, which commences on January 2, 2020. The honour roll of newly blacktype fixtures starts on opening night with the $175,000 Dubai Racing Club Classic, which will be over 2410m on turf and a chance for both stayers and middle-distance turf horses to commence their seasons, as well as the $175,000 Meydan Challenge over 1400m on turf. 

Two weeks later, middle-distance turf runners will once again have a chance to shine in the $175,000 Zabeel Turf over 2000m, a race around one turn with a 1000m (five-furlong) straight into the lone, sweeping bend. Turf sprinters line up in the $175,000 Dubai Dash over 1000m on week four, Jan. 23, while stayers once again take the attention with the $175,000 Meydan Cup one week later over 2180m. Finally, printers stretch out one furlong in the $175,000 Dubai Sprint over 1200m on the sixth week, Feb. 8.

All upgraded DWC Carnival races will have natural progressions into Dubai World Cup night races, while most set up nicely for a run on Super Saturday, Mar. 7. They will all be contested over handicap conditions with a base rating of 95.

Furthermore, the seventh and final upgraded race is for the Purebred Arabians, the 1900m Madjani Stakes on Dec. 19, which is now Listed.