Author: Duane Fonseca

DUAL UAE Champion Jockey Richard Mullen is looking forward to making a fresh start next season after amicably ending his 16 year association with Zabeel Stables. Mullen has been riding in the UAE for nearly two decades and earned both his championships, 2014/15 and 2016/17, in his capacity as Zabeel supremo Satish Seemar’s first choice rider. He has always been on top of his game with his rivalry with Tadhg O’Shea at the top of the jockeys’ championship leaderboard the stuff of legends now.

But Mullen told Al Adiyat he could see the writing on the wall at the end of last season as he lost his privilege to pick his rides, with owners having their runners trained by Seemar choosing others over him. Mullen admitted he felt like quitting at the end of the 2019/20 campaign, but ditched the thought as he looked to reset and reboot. He did that with Zabeel making a strong start to the season.

However, the ghouls of the previous season returned, with him losing the privilege to pick his rides once again. The last straw arrived just before the Dubai World Cup when Mullen found himself without a ride despite Zabeel dispatching six during the course of the night, including a quartet in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile which was won by Seemar’s Secret Ambition in the hands of O’Shea.

Mullen’s only two rides on the card ended up being aboard Charlie Appleby’s Man Of Promise in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint and the Frederic Sanchez-schooled PA Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic hopeful Hayyan. Mullen announced his decision to part ways in the days leading up to Dubai World Cup night and said he felt it was the right thing to do as ‘my heart wasn’t into Zabeel anymore’.

“The separation was going to come eventually, but I was hoping it would’ve been my last job in racing, to be fair, as a rider,” Mullen, who won the 2013 Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen with Reynaldothewizard and Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 with North America, told Al Adiyat. “I thought I would have finished my time there, but I could see the signs from the end of last year and I probably should’ve moved then.

It was getting difficult for him (Satish) with owners wanting to pick their jockeys and I thought I’d give them another go this season and see. “I thought of a fresh start and we started extremely well and had winners but then we came back to the same thing where owners were wanting certain jockeys and they were putting a lot of pressure on the boss and it’s not fair on him.

“He has far more staff than just myself, so it was coming down to him having to keep horses in the stable and there are a lot more owners now than there used to be when I first went to Zabeel (2005/06). “Satish and Bhupat Seemar (assistant trainer) have both put in a lot of hard work attracting these new owners.

It’s been a marvellous place and more than a job and been a family to me. “I was there 16 years, which is a long time and I am very proud and very privileged of what we achieved in that time. My best moments in and out of the saddle have been for that stable and I am fully thankful for Satish, Bhupat and the whole team because they’ve been like a big family to me and it was a tough decision.”

Mullen added: “I decided in December it was going to be my last season there and I was going to hopefully see out the whole season and speak to the boss in April, but then the Dubai World Cup came around and it was pretty tough then because we had runners on DWC night and I wasn’t on any of them. It’s very difficult as a first choice rider when you’re not getting the first choice and then the second choice, so it was a decision I made and it was a very tough decision to make.”

Going forward Mullen will work on a freelance basis but is open to a more concrete role. He does admit it might be tough, but he’s looking forward to it wholeheartedly. “We had a great chat and I have the most admiration and respect for Satish, and everybody at Zabeel have been fantastic for me,” he said. “The best part of my racing career has been because of them and I do owe them a lot, but nothing lasts forever as they say, so we move on and it’s a new challenge.

It’s going to be a lot more difficult because I have to find outside rides. At the moment, I don’t know what I’m doing because I didn’t have a contingency plan and it was just going to be freelance, but I hope I can rely on contacts I’ve made over the past 20 years and hopefully that will stand me in good stead.”

Seemar said Mullen will always get rides from him in the future. “He’s just changing his profile and wants to be more of a freelance rider,” Seemar said. “We had a chat about it and I totally agree with him. He’s a family man and a really experienced jockey. One of the top riders in this region.

He’s had a special relationship with Zabeel Stables and he’ll always have that relationship with us and he’ll always get rides from me. “It’s his decision that he wants to take a little bit of a back seat and not be under pressure. I understand that. He has young kids and he probably wants to have more family time which I totally respect and we will always be in touch and he will be riding more horses for us in the future as long as he is still riding.”