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Not so far away from the bright lights and big money of racing at Meydan, history was being made on Friday afternoon.
Just five miles from the gaping one mile long grandstand of Dubai’s premier course stands Jebel Ali racetrack and, at 3.15 on Friday afternoon, a horse raised the little roof of the place.
Let’s rewind, and go back to the beginning, to 2011 – 4.05pm, June 24th at Windsor races, to be precise.
It was there and then that a horse called Treble Jig had just trailed in ninth of eleven starters, some 23 lengths behind the winner. Racing in the pink and green silks of Khalid Abdulla, his career had started well with two wins from four runs. After that though, the wheels had begun to fall off.
Whether through physical immaturity or mental insecurity, the son of Gone West went west and couldn’t recapture that early promise in four subsequent starts, this miserly Windsor effort being the final straw. Off to the sales he went.
As part of Sir Michael Stoute’s annual cull, he was one of many overlooked. Sir Michael had been vocal in deploring his current crop of animals, supported by the fact he had saddled just 53 winners – his worst tally in over thirty years of training. With the master handler’s words ringing in their ears, potential buyers steered clear.
All except one man.
With little competition in the ring, the then three year old was knocked down by the Doncaster Sales auctioneer for just £11,000 – pennies in the bloodstock world – to Fathi Esaed Mohd Egziama. The horse was shooed out of the ring and the next lot was swiftly brought in to replace him. That was that, as far as Britain was concerned at least.
Shipped to his new home in Dubai, he soon gained a reputation as being a hot-headed fellow who carted his riders around the training track in the mornings. ‘We’ve got a job on our hands here,’ thought his new on-looking trainer Musabah Al Muhairi.
Once ready for a run, Treble Jig was sent up the road to Abu Dhabi racecourse to make his UAE debut. Wound-up in the preliminaries he was a bag of nerves. Jockey Wayne Smith hopped aboard and tried to sooth the horse’s worries.
In the starting gate, the horse baulked at the start, rammed the front gate and caused the whole eight-block of stalls to sway and rattle. Fearing the worst and with all the horses just about loaded, the starter let them go.
Treble Jig was gone. That was the only time the rest of the field saw him. Sailing into a clear early lead, he was never headed and came home in splendid isolation.
The small crowd didn’t realize what had happened. Smith got off the horse in the winner’s enclosure and whispered into Al Muhairi’s ear: ‘We’ve got a monster’.
And so the improvement continued during 2012. Sent to Jebel Ali, he destroyed a top-class field to land the Listed Jebel Ali Stakes. The speed he showed over those 1950 meters made connections think a crack at the Jebel Ali Mile, two weeks later, could be possible. No horse had ever won both races.
The follow-up was simple. Again jumping away sharply, he came home three lengths clear of the rest to land another listed prize. Job done, history made.
And now we come to the present. Treble Jig lined up as hot favourite for the Stakes three weeks ago and produced a spell-binding performance to win by a hard-held eight lengths. No horse had ever won back-to-back runnings before. More history rewritten.
Jebel Ali had been in hard negotiations over the summer to get the Mile upgraded to Group 3 status. Their wish was granted, all they needed now was a headline act. In Treble Jig, they had one.
Last Friday, he was made to work hard by rival Haatheq but got the job done and maintained his unbeaten run at the course, five from five, a perfect nap hand.
With career earnings of now well over £250,000, the monster hasn’t stopped yet.
And, just think, he could have so easily been missed in that sale ring.
- Ross Birkett
[Ross is a freelance racing presenter and journalist, currently fronting racing for the Dubai Racing Channel]