Author: Duane Fonseca
Jockey Pat Dobbs doesn’t like saying much but that’s only because he’d rather let his riding do the talking. Like two weeks ago at Meydan when he won four of the six Thoroughbred contests on the night for his prolific American employer Doug Watson, who himself left the marquee Dubai racecourse with a five from six haul. “It was a super night. I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s very good because it’s never easy to have four winners on a single card,” Dobbs told Al Adiyat. It definitely was extraordinary and if Dobbs could help it he would have just left it at that and not said anything more. He is known for being a man of few words, but when you are punching hard you might as well have a little more spiel to offer.
So we paused... He caught the drift and offered to explain why he felt surprised by the good fortune that came his way. “The horses hadn’t been running well the previous two weeks and there had been a lot of disappointments. They’d been working well at home, but not doing well on the tracks for some reason. But we knew Doug would turn things around. Doug’s a top class trainer and he knows what he’s doing so it’s a big help. It’s definitely a great start and came in time with the next meeting here being the carnival.” Dobbs will definitely be looking towards the Dubai World Cup Carnival and then further forward to Dubai World Cup night where he rode his biggest UAE winner in the form of Second Summer who went on to win the Group 2 Godolphin Mile in 2017.
It capped years of splendid riding from the Irishman, who is widely considered a highly dependable rider not just in the Emirates but in the UK as well where he rides for Richard Hannon Jr., having previously ridden for the legendary Hannon Sr. Dobbs has been fairly successful in the UK and is credited with riding 675 winners, according to the Racing Post website, since starting his career in 1997. The 40yo can count among his significant wins, a 2012 Wokingham Stakes victory at Royal Ascot aboard David Marnane’s Dandy Boy, two Group 2 Sandown Mile successes for Hannon Sr. aboard Hurricane Alan (2004, 2005) and his biggest career win to date, his Group 1 Coronation Cup success aboard the Hannon Jr.’s Pether’s Moon in 2015.
Born in a non racing family, it took much convincing from Dobbs to get his parents to send him to racing school. “I had no family roots in racing. I was the first one,” Dobbs explains. “But I was very small: only 5st 3 when I was 15. I didn’t enjoy school so it was an easy exit out of school and it was the right decision. “The folks were a bit hesitant at the start but I kept moaning and moaning and I think they were sick of me moaning and in the end they just said go. “My father loves racing so he enjoys it, but my mother doesn’t watch it because she’s a bit soft and would rather not watch.” Dobbs quit school and joined the apprentice school in Ireland aged 15. He was then allocated to Dessie Hughes’ yard and after three years there he moved to join the Hannons.
Dobbs added: “Dessie sent me to Richard Hannon when I was 19 and I’ve been with him ever since. Richard Hughes was first jockey and then Ryan Moore and they were sharing the rides and there wasn’t a lot left after them, so I struggled for a few years and then started to do okay on better quality horses. I never really hit the highs I should have. “It was like a hobby and not a job for me and nights like the four wins one at Meydan make it all the more sweeter. But it’s not work, it’s a hobby and you get paid for your hobby and not many people can say that. But there are a lot of ups and downs and you gotta enjoy the good nights.
Just riding along taking the good with the bad. “You never know what can happen. I had a bad fall last year and I was lucky enough to get back on after a couple of weeks so you don’t want a mishap like that because your life can change very quickly.” He arrived to ride in the Emirates for the first time during the 2003/04 campaign, starting what would be another long association with a trainer in Watson. Dobbs rode 13 times during that first stint and claimed his first UAE win at Jebel Ali aboard the Watson-trained Media Story. Since then he has featured consistently around the summit of the UAE jockeys’ leaderboard, with his tally currently standing at 208 winner, including that Group Two success with Second Summer.
He has never won the UAE jockeys’ championship, and that’s purely down to the fact he doesn’t enjoy riding Purebred Arabians and with the championship here counting both codes, it would be difficult for someone like Dobbs to actually win the title. His highest finishes so far are the consecutive thirds he managed in 15/16 and 16/17 when he claimed 39 and 29 wins respectively. “Malih Al Basti brought me over here some 15 or 16 years ago I think it was. I had a few rides here and rode a winner for Doug Watson. Malih had loads of horses here and he secured me the job the following season and I think this is my sixth or seventh season as first jockey to Doug,” Dobbs said.
“It’s been great working with Doug because he knows the horses inside out and he has a very good assistant in Noel Connolly, who has been a very big help in my career as a Red Stables rider. Sam Hitchcott too is a very important jockey for us and he’s been having a good season as well, so it’s all working out well for us at the yard. “I don’t count back, I only look forward but I should’ve done better here in the UAE. It’s always that way isn’t it? When you have four winners you want five and when you have five you want to have six. That’s the way it is. “Doug has a lot of horses because he’s the top trainer here but it’s a good thing and a bad thing because they then have to do their running against each other and you can have only one winner at a time and it all depends on the night.”
Counting back however, horses like Second Summer, One Man Band, Cosmo Charlie, Storm Belt and Candy Boy have given Dobbs plenty to be thankful for here. “I’m glad to see One Man Band back. We have a lot of new horses that we don’t know a lot about. They’re in the mid 80s so we’ll see how we get on with it.” The Coronation Cup triumph remains one of his biggest achievements to date because it capped one of his best days in racing so far as he not only won with Pether’s Moon but enjoyed a double when winning a handicap on the same card, as well as having his first ever Epsom Derby ride aboard the Hannonschooled Moheet. “
That day was massive. I won the final handicap on the card too and had my first ride in the Derby, but getting that Group One was the icing on the cake of a great year,” Dobbs explained. With the Carnival about to bring into picture the business half of the season, who knows there could be more massive nights ahead for Dobbs.