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Taking Liam The Charmer To HH The Amir Sword Festival In Qatar

Michael McCarthy, the American trainer who enjoyed the biggest success of his career when City Of Light landed the Pegasus World Cup, is set to make an ambitious raid on the US$2.95 million (£2.3 million) HH The Amir Sword Festival at Al Rayyan Racecourse in Qatar on Saturday February 23rd.

Taking Liam The Charmer To HH The Amir Sword Festival In Qatar

Michael McCarthy, the American trainer who enjoyed the biggest success of his career when City Of Light landed the Pegasus World Cup, is set to make an ambitious raid on the US$2.95 million (£2.3 million) HH The Amir Sword Festival at Al Rayyan Racecourse in Qatar on Saturday February 23rd.

City Of Light
City Of Light Picture:(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

McCarthy plans to saddle his Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship scorer, Liam The Charmer Horseform, in HH The Amir Trophy (Presented by Longines), a mile and a half (2400m) contest which is one of the Festival’s pair of million dollar races.


Liam The Charmer’s intended opponents include another US challenger in the shape of the Leonard Powell-trained Grade 3 scorer, Beach View, plus four European visitors – Hunting Horn from Ireland, Raymond Tusk from Britain and the French duo, Royal Julius and French King.

Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Hunting Horn is a battled-hardened intercontinental traveller, last seen when finishing third in Grade 3 company in Florida last month, while Richard Hannon’s Raymond Tusk ended his 2018 campaign on a high note when winning a Group 2 in Milan in October.

Jerome Reynier’s Royal Julius is also proven at Group 2 level, having landed an Italian race of that calibre and at home finished runner-up in the Prix d’Harcourt. French King, trained by Alex Pantall, ran consistently well in French Listed races last season.

The home defence of HH The Amir Trophy is set to be led by last year’s winner, Jassim Ghazali’s The Blue Eye, and the Ibrahim Al Malki-trained Pazeer, successful in the main trial race at Al Rayyan last Saturday (February 2nd).

The Festival’s other showpiece is the US$1 million (£781,250) HH The Amir Sword for purebred arabians.

Also run over a mile and a half on Saturday February 23rd, it is likely to feature the first three home in last year’s renewal (the Qatari-trained trio of Gazwan, Ebraz and Yazeed), not to mention two high class French contenders in the Qatar Four-Year-Old Derby winner Rijm, trained by Thomas Fourcy, and the dual Group 1 scorer, Marid, from the Antoine de Watrigant yard.

Saturday February 23rd’s card also boasts three US$250,000 (£195,313) events in the Dukhan Sprint (Sponsored by Breeders’ Cup), the Al Biddah Mile [both thoroughbreds-only races] and the Qatar International Cup, a one mile contest for purebred arabians.

The Al Biddah Mile could witness a rematch between the British hope, George Scott’s Concierge, and the Ghazali-trained Luchador. They fought out a terrific finish to the seven furlong Al Rayyan Stakes here on December 22nd with Concierge prevailing by a short head.

Other likely international runners are, from England, Global Spectrum (who is Hong Kong owned, by Doctor Johnny Hon, but trained by Gay Kellleway) and Ours Puissant (Hugo Palmer), and, from France, Admiral Rous (Eoghan O’Neill).

The Dukhan Sprint is set to host a German challenger, Julio (Mario Hofer), on top of another visitor from England, Stone Of Destiny (Andrew Balding). But the most familiar contender for this six furlong event will be Ghazali’s Izzthatright, who has run in it for the last four years, winning it in 2016 and 2017 and finishing second on the other two occasions.

The Qatar International Cup is likely to see a rematch between Ghazali’s Molheb Al Naif and Francois Rohaut’s French hope, Ateej, who filled the first two places in the corresponding event 12 months ago.

That victory was part of an eight-race winning streak for Molheb Al Naif which was brought to an end last month by another intended runner, Julian Smart’s Sharesa, while a second strong French challenger is the recent Fourcy-trained Qatar Three-Year-Old Derby hero, Amir Al Cham.

Qatar is preparing to welcome its first ever Japanese runner when Hideyuki Mori saddles Yu Change in the highlight of Friday 22nd February’s Al Rayyan card, the US$200,000 (£156,250) Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup.

A proven globe-trotter, having finished third in the UAE Derby in 2016, Yu Change will be part of a highly international field for this one mile thoroughbred contest which will also feature runners from France (Carina Fey’s Diplomat and Reynier’s Marianafoot), England (David O’Meara’s Salateen) and Oman (the Mohammed Al Farsi-trained Hammerindown).

Michael McCarthy, trainer of Liam The Charmer, said:

"Liam The Charmer has been training beautifully since he was beaten a nose and a head in the San Gabriel Stakes [a Grade 2 race at Santa Anita on January 5th]. This horse can run all day, so the mile and a half should be no problem.”

“I am looking forward to the trip to Qatar with Liam The Charmer. It will be a great racing experience."

George Scott, trainer of Concierge, said:

“I have booked James Doyle to ride Concierge in the Al Biddah Mile.”

“Everyone involved with the horse had a wonderful trip to Qatar when he won the Al Rayyan Stakes out there in December – we were extremely well looked after.”

“He’s come back to Newmarket and had a little break since then, but I am very pleased with the way he is training at the moment and it’s just a matter of getting him to peak again in a couple of weeks’ time.”

“The only question mark would be how he will cope with the step up to a mile. I think that he won with a bit in hand last time and he saw the seven furlongs out so well that I am fairly confident that he will get the longer trip, especially on such a sharp track.”

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