Port Lions ready to roar for Bahrain legend Fawzi Nass

Trainer Fawzi Nass and jockey Adrie de Vries give Liz Price the lowdown on Port Lions, the big local hope in the Bahrain International Trophy on Friday.

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By Liz Price

PORT LIONS, the five-year-old former Irish handicapper, has been housed in an extraordinary number of different yards and countries in his career.

However, it is legendary Bahrain trainer Fawzi Nass who put him firmly on the map when he beat the Group 1 Nassau Stakes winner and hot favourite Deirdre in the Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup, the opener on Saudi Cup day at Riyadh in February.

Watch the Bahrain International Trophy from Sakhir live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 20th November at 1pm.

It is no wonder that the son of Kodiac is one of the leading fancies in Friday’s Bahrain International Trophy following that impressive performance, where he came from last after missing the break to catching Deirdre in the final 50 yards,  

For Fawzi Nass, who celebrated the biggest success of his career when Krypton Factor stormed to victory in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan in 2012, winning the Bahrain International Trophy on his home turf would be a great achievement, especially since Port Lions has not run since his famous victory in Saudi Arabia.

“The season finished here in March due to Covid,” he explains. “So it was very shortly after his return from Saudi Arabia and too early for him to run again. After that it was very difficult to travel with him anywhere, due to Covid, so I decided to keep him here and aim him at this race this year.”

Nass has between 50 and 60 horses in his stables in Bahrain, but also has a satellite yard in Dubai where in the past he has had up to 20 horses in training.

Since coming to Bahrain in December 2019, Port Lions is unbeaten in five starts and while his handler believes that the Bahrain International Trophy is going to be a hot race, he also thinks that he has his horse in good condition.

“Yes, he is in good shape,” he confirms. “He has put in a couple of good pieces of work on the track and I’m happy with the way he is. Looking at the initial entries, I knew it was going to be a tough race, but it’s good to gage a horse like Port Lions, who basically came out of the blue. I mean he had been rated 87 or something like that, so it will be good to gage his class in the race tomorrow.”

Port Lions certainly showed class when he won against Deirdre, who reopposes on Friday, and French Group 1 winner Intellogent in Saudi Arabia, especially after completely missing the break.

“Yes,” Nass smiles. “It was an impressive performance after missing the break like that. Hopefully he jumps better than he did in Saudi this time, so that he can get a good position. He is drawn 1, which is not too bad.”

Jockey Adrie de Vries said: The horse could sometimes be a bit of a grumpy fellow. He had already stayed behind in the gates in the UK, but I'm not worried for Friday. The race is long enough for Port Lions to sort himself out.

Trainer Fawzi Nass added: “We have a very fair track with a galloping straight here in Bahrain and there are very little hard luck stories. Usually the best horse wins.”

And who does Nass think is the best horse?

Again, he smiles and says: “It’s very difficult to criticise any horses in the field, they all seem to be tough hardened horses with a bit of quality in them. Obviously, an Irish Derby winner you always have to respect. I expect him to set the pace and would say he will be the horse to beat.

“But then this is a shorter trip than what he is usually used to, but let’s see what happens. I’m hopeful with Port Lions in any case.”

Watch the Bahrain International Trophy from Sakhir live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 20th November at 1pm.

Port Lions ready to roar for Bahrain legend Fawzi Nass
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