Jason Watson and Berkshire Rocco chase $1m prize as final fields revealed for big Qatar card

Horse Racing Berkshire Rocco
Million-dollar target: Berkshire Rocco (near side) represents Andrew Balding in Qatar. Photo: Racing and Sports

Qatar: Jason Watson is chasing the winner’s share of a $1 million prize fund when he partners St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco in Qatar this weekend – when his chief rival looks set to be Aspetar, aboard whom the jockey enjoyed one of his three career G1 victories.

Won for the past two years by Henri Pantall-trained French King, the HH The Amir Trophy is the thoroughbred highlight of the three-day HH The Amir Sword festival at Al Rayyan racecourse in Doha from Thursday to Saturday [Feb 18-20] – when the climax takes place the same day as the Saudi Cup card in Riyadh.

Also second in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, Andrew Balding-trained Berkshire Rocco leads a diminished European presence at the $4.34m festival as he bids to thwart a strong-looking home team.

They include former Roger Charlton-trained Aspetar, ridden by former champion apprentice Watson to win the G1 Preis von Europa in Cologne in September 2019. The six-year-old won the G2 Sky Bet York Stakes on his most recent start in Britain, after which he was unplaced in the Cox Plate before joining top Qatari-based trainer Julian Smart.

Check out fields for Saturday’s racing in Qatar

Aspetar will be ridden by Maxime Guyon in the Longines-sponsored 1m4f event; other leading names among the domestic contingent are ex-French Qatar Derby winner Hellenistique (Ronan Thomas) and veteran Noor Al Hawa (Alberto Sanna), second twice in the past. 

Final fields for Friday’s card

International numbers are down this year owing to Covid-19 quarantine regulations, leaving Saturday’s top three-year-old event, the$250,000 Al Biddah Mile, as an all-domestic 12-runner affair.

However, there is French involvement in the $250,000 Dukhan Sprint in the shape of Corine Barande-Barbe’s Air De Valse (Ronan Thomas), a G3 winner at ParisLongchamp in September.

Ireland’s Bowerman (Ado McGuinness/Ronan Whelan), a G3 winner at Dundalk on his most recent outing, takes his chance against 13 locals in Friday’s $200,000 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup.

Two of the best purebred Arabians in the world go head-to-head as Ebraz takes on Tayf in the $1m HH The Amir Sword on Saturday’s card.

• Visit the QREC (Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club) website

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