The master of Red Stables—winner of the past three Al Shindaghas with three separate horses—will look to continue his streak when he saddles Misty Hollow Farm's defending champ, Drafted , against Seemar's Dubawi winner and expected market favourite, Gladiator King .
"He was a little ring-rusty and broke really slow in the Dubawi," Watson explained. "We know he'll come from off the pace with his style, but he was too far back. He had also missed some training with a foot issue, so we were very happy with the way he ran and the way he closed. Since then, he's had a really good couple pieces of work and I'm hopeful for a good run."
Closing nearly five lengths on his rivals between the 600m and 200m poles in the Dubawi, the popular 6-year-old son of Field Commission gave the crowd a thrill in that he may catch his rivals, but he ultimately sputtered a bit in the final stages, finishing 1¾ lengths behind Gladiator King and Ibn Malik. His closing 400m in 23.68 seconds was his fastest final 'quarter-mile' in three seasons of racing at Meydan.
The grey gelding drew post five of seven in a race that appears to set up equally for stalkers like Gladiator King and closers like Drafted. Regular pilot Pat Dobbs rides again.
"More towards the outside is a good draw with him, because the ones outside of him will sprint away to the front and hopefully cross over," Watson explained. "I think we need to be a little closer than last time, obviously. I hope he's the best horse, in the end."
Watson also expressed confidence in the preparation of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Thursday night runners Motafaawit, who makes his debut for Watson and UAE bow, and Gabr, who looks to return to form after a trio of disappointing UAE efforts.
"I like Motafaawit a lot, but how he's doing and if he can win are different things. I am happy with where he is right now," Watson said. "Hopefully we have Gabr on the right trip this time. We also took the tongue tie off him and he's been working well. I think he's down to a (rating) mark where he can win. I think he should run well."
Watson also mentioned that Al Maktoum Challenge R1 (G2) winner Kimbear will likely stretch out next in the $450,000 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 (G2) over 1900m on Feb. 6, while he may go three-deep in the $200,000 Firebreak Stakes (G3) over 1600m one week later with Muntazah, Thegreatcollection and Quip. Additionally, rising star pupil Midnight Sands has Godolphin Mile (G2) dreams, but first will point toward handicap company on the "20th or 27th of February" for his connections—taking a similar path to Watson's 2016 Godolphin Mile winner, One Man Band