Author: Duane Fonseca

RICHARD MULLEN had set himself a few targets starting the season and having achieved one of his top goals of breaking into the elitist 500s circle will not stop the dual UAE Champion Jockey from going after the others. If helping his Zabeel Stables boss Satish Seemar win the UAE Champion Trainers’ title is one of them, then a majority from Mullen’s score of 36 for the season has done ample to put his chief employer on the brink of a long awaited sixth trophy. But as far as ambition goes, Mullen is also keen to stop close friend and archrival Tadhg O’Shea from dominating the riders table the way he has done over the past decade or so.

In the past five years, the only time O’Shea was denied the title was when Mullen won it off him. And this year the pair are once again the ones fighting it out at the top with O’Shea leading by five at the top of the leaderboard with 41 wins… Mullen is second! With eight meetings left, including Dubai World Cup Day on 28 March, both know the title race is far from over. Both are likely to be well stocked throughout until the end, but as of now the spotlight is on Mullen, who is only the third rider after O’Shea (552) and Richard Hills (504) in the 500s club. A delighted Mullen said: “Obviously it is a big achievement and landmark.

The fact I am only the third to reach 500 proves that and it is an honour to join Richard Hills and Tadhg O’Shea having done that. “At the start of the season reaching 500 was one of my main targets, now I need to get second on the list. Topping it will be tough with Tadhg still going strong! “Another of my targets was to help Satish Seemar be Champion Trainer, something he has not achieved since I have been stable jockey. We have had Group One winners but not a championship. Hopefully that will change this season. “There are just too many people I need to thank. When I spent four seasons here in Dubai as a Godolphin workrider I never imagined I would ride 500 winners. “From Saeed bin Suroor, through Jaci Wickham, Sheikh Rashid, Satish, Sheikh Mansoor, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, I owe them all and many others a lot. “I have made my life here in Dubai now so this is an important milestone and, as I say, one of which I am very proud.”

He may be proud and it took him no time to realise what he had achieved after Yas Racing’s Helal Al Alawi trained Shammarah stormed to an eighth and a quarter length victory in a 1400m maiden for Purebred Arabians at Al Ain on 13 March, the jockey punching the air in delight. “The timing couldn’t have been better,” said Mullen whose 400th winner was also aboard a horse owned by Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s Yas Racing operation. “For me to reach the number and to ride the 500th winner for Sheikh Mansoor and Yas Racing is great. The last three to four years Purebred Arabians have been a major part of my career and strong Arabian backup is needed to challenge for championships and my association with Yas Racing and Sheikh Mansoor been fantastic. “It was very special and I took the weekend to reflect more and I really feel great pride that I could achieve this and become a part of UAE racing history along with top class riders like Richard Hills and Tadhg.”

Mullen would love to do a UAE Champion Trainer and Jockey double for Zabeel Stables, and will leave no stone unturned in his quest to get there as he looks to give back to Seemar, a man who has supported him through the years and supplied the horses that account for Mullen’s only two career Group One Thoroughbred successes. Reynaldothewizard, who won the 2013 Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, and North America, winner of the 2018 Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, were both Seemar trainees. Mullen concluded: “I take a lot of pride in our partnership that has lasted 14-15 years and, like I said, for me to give something back to him and make him Champion Trainer would be something nice to give back to him. “Satish has helped me all along the way and, like I say, has been the greatest influence on my career and my biggest successes were with him. My two UAE Group Ones and jockeys championships have been while riding with Zabeel.”