Author: Derek Thompson
Whether you’re a fan of Thoroughbred racing, Purebred Arabian racing or endurance racing, the UAE has it all and it’s been another great season with some fantastic performances. It’s difficult to know where to start but a man who deserves plenty of credit is Tadhg O’Shea who set a new cumulative record total of riding winners in the UAE and was crowned Champion Jockey yet again. Admittedly he is built to be a jockey being closer to five feet than six feet but still responds to me with a crack and a laugh when I call him ‘the big fella’! His ability in the saddle is outstanding and there is no doubt he is a natural horseman but it’s his chirpy demeanour and his businesslike brain that endears him to horsemen and race fans alike.
He is also a great ambassador for the sport and the UAE and is to be applauded for setting a new record of 505 winners, taking over from Richard Hills. O’Shea is currently on 511. Many of his wins have been in the black and silver colours of Khalid Al Nabooda on horses trained by Ernst Oertel and they also celebrated being crowned champions with Nabooda the leading owner and Oertel the leading trainer. Khalid is a great supporter of Purebred Arabian racing both as a breeder and an owner and it was good to see his AF Maher win the Kahayla Classic. And what about Ernst who lost his left leg five years ago and has somehow fought his way back and still rides horses? He really is Mr Incredible!
Godolphin not surprisingly won the Thoroughbred owners’ title yet again but amazingly both Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor finished with virtually the same amount of prize money won, Dh34,000,000. Charlie sent out the biggest number of winners with a superb strike rate of over 30% while Saeed won the Dubai World Cup for an incredible ninth time! In the domestic tables Satish Seemar sent out the biggest number of Thoroughbred winners while Doug Watson won the most prize money. And while all this was going on at the racetracks in the UAE, there was plenty happening in the world of endurance racing. Personally I love going to the Al Wathba endurance track in Abu Dhabi and one of my abiding memories was seeing HH Sheikh Mansoor and HH Sheikh Mohammed driving alongside their horses and cheering them on as they approached the winning line.
Watching the teams in action during the loops is an eye opener and considering they race over distances sometimes in excess of 100km, you have to say well done to everyone involved. Al Shamoos, owned by HH Sheikh Tahnoon was a very popular winner of the HH Sheikh Zayed Jewel Crown in Abu Dhabi, the world’s richest Arabian race, ridden by Julian Auge and trained by Charles Gourdain. This race and the finals of the Apprentice and Lady Jockeys’ World Series have become synonymous with Abu Dhabi, and the Sheikh Mansoor Festival, which is run with such aplomb by Lara Sawaya, will once again cover over 100 races in 90 countries in 2019. And HH Sheikh Hamdan will once again support Purebred Arabian races throughout Europe with the highlight being at Newbury in July where they stage four Group One races.