‘Good gate speed and travels strongly’ – Michael Bell eyes success in first two legs of Bahrain Turf Series

Horse Racing Bahrain Turf Series
Ready for the off: Bahrain Turf Series begins at Sakhir on Friday. Photo: REHC

Bahrain: Bahrain makes another bold sortie onto the international stage on Friday [Dec 10] when the new Bahrain Turf Series kicks off with two competitive £50,000 heats at the Rashid Equestrian & Horseracing Club’s Sakhir base.

A ten-race series featuring £550,000 in prize-money, the new concept has attracted around 20 European-trained horses to Bahrain, which recently hosted a thrilling renewal of the Bahrain International Trophy won by Lord Glitters.

Al Manama Cup (11.15am GMT) – runners and riders
Al Muharraq Cup (11.45am GMT – runners and riders

A 16-runner field will line up on Friday for the Al Manama Cup (11.15am GMT) over seven furlongs, with 15 engaged in the Al Muharraq Cup (11.45am GMT) over 1m2f. Both races are framed for horses rated 0-100.

Derby-winning trainer Michael Bell sends out his first runners in the Kingdom in five-time winner Natural Path and Ace Rothstein.

Horse Racing Michael Bell Bahrain
Michael Bell’s two Bahrain runners in morning exercise at Sakhir. Photo: REHC

Bell’s son Nick is overseeing the pair. He said: “Natural Path had a productive summer over six furlongs and showed all the right credentials to be a horse who might be suited to Bahrain in the sense that he has good gate speed and travels strongly. Kieran Shoemark is going to take the ride and we’re hopeful of a big run from him.”

Ace Rothstein is ridden by local jockey Lee Newman in the Al Muharraq Cup. “He is a horse that stays well, likes fast ground and we’re happy with the condition he’s come in,” said Bell. 

“After he won a couple of races he was raised quite a bit in the handicap so then we started to look at international races for him and we think he is a suitable candidate as they have a good programme for ten furlong horses over here.”

However, 14-time Bahraini champion trainer Allan Smith, who has five horses engaged across the two races, fancies his chances of fending off the visitors.

Bell is joined by several other British-based trainers, with Charlie Hills, Stan Moore, George Baker, Keith Dalgleish, Jamie Osborne and William Jarvis also represented.

“It has certainly given us something to aim for – there’s good prize-money up for grabs and I think the series has added excitement all around,” he said.

The highest-rated of Smith’s three runners in the Al Manama Cup is three-time winner Breath Of Air.  “He is a nice horse,” said the 14-time Bahraini champion.

“He was a bit difficult to place last season, and he took a bit of time to get used to the track. He’s a talented horse – he’s rated 93 so that speaks for itself and he wouldn’t be without a chance if he got a run.”

Last-time-out winner Happy Craf came to Bahrain last year. “She’s a lovely, big, improving mare,” reported Smith. “We’re quite excited about her, she could be anything. She won very easily last time. I know it was a low-class handicap but she won in terrific style.”

On the three-year-old Inveigle, who has just come over from the UK, Smith added: “He’s working really well. He’s settled in well and is a nice, big, strong horse. If he gets the rub of the green he should run well and give a good account of himself. 

Smith has Giustino and The Emperor Within in the Al Muharraq Cup. “Giustino is a young and improving horse that came from Joseph O’Brien’s earlier in the year,” said Smith. “He looked like a progressive horse when Joseph had him and he’s certainly shown that in his recent work. 

“The Emperor Within is a horse we’ve had for a couple of years and he runs in and out,” he went on. “He ran last week and is off a low handicap mark of 83 and he’s got a good weight. He has been rated 90 in the past, so if he can improve on what he’s been doing he should give a good account of himself.”

• Visit the Bahrain Turf Club website

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