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Friday, 18 January, 2019

'I'd like to meet Abe Lincoln as I admire how he led America in a tough time'

Dubai's champion trainer, 52, gets our weekly grilling

Doug Watson: "I'm very proud to be training for the Maktoum family"
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What advice would you give your ten-year-old self?
Buy Microsoft, Apple and Amazon stock and you’ll be waking up at 10am rather than 4.30am every morning!

Would you rather win the Dubai World Cup or be champion trainer again?
Dubai World Cup. I drove the horse ambulance for the inaugural World Cup in 1996 and it would be extremely special to win it one year.

Have you set yourself any targets for the Dubai season?
Just to get the most out of the horses we have. It’s a nice group of horses – we trialled some unraced two-year-olds this week – and if we do the right thing with them all will fall into place.

Is there a chance you could have a runner in Britain and which races would you love to win?
Any race at Royal Ascot. I've always enjoyed watching races from there but have only been once.

What’s the best bet you’ve ever had?
When I was first on the track I was living in a tack room at Keeneland. I had one of my horses win and made about $3,000. I stayed in a hotel for the rest of the days we raced at Keeneland before going south to Florida, where I spent the rest of the winter on an air mattress in a tack room at Gulfstream Park.

If you could play any other sport professionally, which would it be and why?
Baseball – I played from the age of four and through college. Talent never got me to the pinnacle but it took me a while to figure out what to do next.

What do you think Dubai racing does best?
The carnival and World Cup night. It really is the most international racing in the world.

Other than better prize-money, what is one thing you would change about British racing?
I would hate to say anything negative. I enjoy watching the racing in England from Dubai in the summer. I think the local trainers and owners from each racing jurisdiction have better ideas how to improve their own racing.

What is your earliest racing memory?
Betting on the favourite Private Terms in the 1988 Kentucky Derby when friends who owned and bred horses got me into racing. I was just a chalk player in those days and he finished ninth. 

Which country would you most like to race in that you haven’t yet?
Probably back in the States. I grew up watching racing there and began my career there as an assistant and I would love to win a race there one day.

Frankel or Dancing Brave?
Frankel – he was an amazing racehorse. To be fair to Dancing Brave I wasn’t really watching European racing back in his day.

What’s your biggest ambition in racing?
Definitely to win the Dubai World Cup with the Kentucky Derby being a close second.

And outside of racing?
Travel to as many new places as I can.

What is your worst habit?
Procrastination – as you can tell by how long it took to get this questionnaire done.

If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be?
Probably Abe Lincoln as I admire how he led America through one of its toughest periods.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?
I always embarrass myself in close finishes as I get pretty loud.

What is your most treasured possession?
My stopwatch.

How do you relax away from racing?
I play golf, but I don’t relax much during the season.

Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
Kiaran McLaughlin without a doubt. After starting in Dubai with Satish Seemar I was head man to Kiaran and started training when he went back to train in America.

What is the strangest/funniest thing you have seen on a racecourse?
We had the smallest Arabian horse we ever trained win a race at Sharjah. We never thought he’d win a race and a lot of our riders work on the gates and were on the inside rail as he went by and yelled for him. He spooked and shot to the outside rail but still hung on to win.

When did you first know you’d become a trainer?
When I started working for Kiaran and learned so much. I used to pre-train the horses for the upcoming season in Dubai while he was racing in America for the summer. We started the racing one year while he was at the Breeders’ Cup and had a treble at Jebel Ali. That was the point I thought I might be able to do this for a living some day.

What’s your biggest fear?

Social media - friend or foe?
I was indifferent until last season. We had a favourite get pulled up in the stretch while another one of our horses won the race. I had just helped load the horse on the ambulance when some numpty messaged me on Facebook saying he hoped me and Dobbsy [Pat Dobbs] died in a plane crash. He must have had £20 on our favourite. So now the answer might be foe.

Sir Henry Cecil (with Frankel): would have made a good dinner guest

Who would be your four ideal dinner party guests?
Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, Barack Obama, New York Yankees baseball great Mickey Mantle and Sir Henry Cecil.

Can you ever see yourself training anywhere else or returning to America?
No, not really. I have one of the best training jobs you could have and I never envisioned such a great opportunity. I'm very blessed with a great group of owners and I'm very proud to be training for the Maktoum family.

Give us one or two from your stable to look out for this winter
Kimbear for later in the carnival. We purchased him from California this summer and I hope we can get him to World Cup night. For the domestic season a horse namedAlmanaara has summered very well and is training great.

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When I was first on the track I was living in a tack room at Keeneland. I had one of my horses win and made about $3,000

Key data

Doug Watson
E.W. Terms
Sky bet