Trainer - Ahmad bin Harmash
Emirati trainer Ahmad bin Harmash may not be big name yet, but he’s had an excellent start to the season in Dubai and looks sure to have some Carnival winners, possibly in high-quality races. There’s a good chance they’ll be overpriced, too—make sure you give his runners a second look. A former assistant to Mubarak bin Shafya, bin Harmash got off the mark quickly when just his second runner, Ormindo, won at Meydan in December 2013. Not bad for someone whose background was largely in endurance riding. Bin Harmash now finds himself in the position where he’ll saddle Fitzgerald and Championship in each of the two big races on the first night of the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan on Thursday January 5th, namely the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 and listed Singspiel Stakes, and he could even with both races. Fitzgerald, who was formerly trained in the States by Thomas Albertrani, won three of his seven starts for bin Harmash in 2016, including the listed Dubai Creek Mile at Meydan at odds of 33/1. The previous two winners of that race, Surfer and Le Bernardin, followed up in the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 (over the same C&D) and it would be no surprise to see the thriving Fitzgerald do the same.
Jockey - Pat Cosgrave
With Pat Cosgrave back riding in Dubai for the first time in three years, after being found guilty of what amounted to team tactics following his ride on Anaerobio in the 2014 Jebel Hatta (won by the same connections’ favourite Vercingetorix), he’ll certainly have a point to prove. Cosgrave was initially fined £35,000 for his transgression, though he’s said that owing to the different exchange rates, the total came in at nearer £45,000. Given the levels of prize money at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, Cosgrave will be hoping he’ll soon be able to get that back with a few good wins, and three rides on the opening night certainly help. Cosgrave partners the ex-Aidan O’Brien-trained The Happy Prince for Hong Kong trainer John Moore in the five-furlong handicap and Mastermind for Mike de Kock in the seven-furlong handicap, but he’ll presumably most be looking forward to riding Silent Attack for Saeed bin Suroor in the listed mile race. Cosgrave’s link-up with Godolphin—he rode five winners from just seven rides for the owner in 2016—will ensure he gets a steady supply of good rides over the comings weeks and months, and he’s a jockey well worth keeping on side.
Horse - Desert Force
One horse that’s certainly clicked after switching to Dubai is Desert Force, who had gone nine starts (on turf) without a win for Richard Hannon but has won the last two of his three for Doug Watson. Desert Force hasn’t just ‘won’ them, either—he’s annihilated his opposition, scoring by at least seven lengths both times. This is in seven-furlong handicaps, too, and from a mark of 97 last time (just before the turn of the year). Desert Force’s latest performance was astonishing: he was very quickly away from the stalls and looked full value for a very smart effort as he made all from Heavy Metal (he of the 2012 Richmond Stakes fame). Desert Force’s effort on Timeform ratings wasn’t far off the one Brando produced when defying joint-top weight in the Ayr Gold Cup in September. The downside for Desert Force is that the Carnival programme for seven furlongs is light, which means he’ll likely either have to drop to back to six furlongs or step up to a mile, but either way he should be followed very closely.