Author: Duane Fonseca
BITTERSWEET IS the emotion Tadhg O’Shea felt as he left for Ireland having secured a record eighth UAE Jockeys Championship title during the 2019/20 campaign that came to an abrupt halt last week. The Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) joined a host of other nations in suspending operations due to the Coronavirus pandemic last week leaving the industrious Irishman to be crowned king yet again and leave riding legend Ted Durcan back in second place with seven titles. Not only now is O’Shea the most decorated jockey in UAE history in number of titles won, but his 42 wins for the season allowed him to stretch his career wins on Emirates soil to a massive 553.
In that league he is well ahead of the long retired Richard Hills, who has 504, with contemporary rival Richard Mullen occupying third with 500, having reached the landmark weeks prior. Mullen trailed O’Shea by six on the table when the curtains were forced down, but the latter’s form was as usual imperious and although he was thrilled to have clinched the title for the eighth time, not being able to ride what would have been his busiest Dubai World Cup card was disappointing. “Obviously, I am disappointed that our season was cut short,” O’Shea told Al Adiyat. “It was out of everybody’s control, but everybody’s health and well being is of far greater importance than the season going on and it was the right step and move to call a halt. “It was disappointing for everyone involved but for me because I was really looking forward to World Cup night.
It was due to be my busiest night ever with five intended mounts and with all having realistic chances of running big races. “So from that point it was a bit disappointing, but coming back to the championship, winning an eighth was something I always wanted to do and I’ve been very, very lucky in Dubai. It’s been a great place for me and my wife Debbie and two boys Darragh and Aaron who are keen supporters and followers.” O’Shea’s greatest Dubai World Cup night achievements so far came last year when he won the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic, a race he also landed in 2008 on Mizzna, aboard Ernst Oertel’s AF Maher, who was enlisted for a title defence in this year’s renewal in the colours of UAE Champion Owner for the season Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. He says the feeling of winning the championship is yet to sink in.
“To win the championship last year and tie with Ted Durcan’s seven championship wins was obviously a great feat and a personal milestone, but you know in the back of my head staying healthy and injury free and winning another championship was always there and now I hold the record for most championships in the UAE. It tells the whole story of how good the place has been to me and long may it continue. “I’ve just turned 38, so I have another seven or eight good years anyway and it would be nice to add another couple to it but at the moment we’ll just reflect and digest because it hasn’t really sunk in. We were kind of in overdrive with the season and the abrupt end, but it’ll sink in.”
O’Shea produced some truly outstanding performances during the five months of action and says the highlights will be his four Dubai World Cup Carnival victories aboard George Villiers, Cliffs Of Capri, Secret Advisor and Wafy. George Villiers and Wafy, winner of a 2000m handicap and the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal on Super Saturday respectively, were both trained by Satish Seemar at Zabeel Stables, where he was second in the pecking order behind Mullen, while he rode Jamie Osborne’s Cliffs Of Capri to victory in a 1600m handicap and triumphed on Godolphin’s Secret Advisor trained by Charlie Appleby in the Listed Meydan Cup. “One the highlights for the season would be the four carnival winners starting with George Villiers for Mohammed Khalifa Al Basti which set the ball rolling,” O’Shea said.
“Then I had a spare ride on Secret Advisor for Charlie Appleby so that was another milestone having a winner for the Royal Blues and then winning on Cliffs Of Capri for Jamie Osborne and Melbourne 10 Racing gave me a great kick. “Wafy on Super Saturday was probably the highlight of the carnival for me. To have a winner like that on Super Saturday and going forward the Golden Shaheen looked like a realistic chance but it wasn’t to be, but he’s a young horse and very unexposed so he’s going to be exciting for next year. “All in all it was a fantastic season and unearthing a possible superstar in AF Alwajel, winner of the Group 2 Liwa Oasis, for Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. He’s a young horse that’s going places and very, very similar to our proven champion in AF Maher so that was exciting for Khalid and going forward next season he should be a very good horse.”
O’Shea can’t wait for next season and believes this term’s premature end will make him and his counterparts hungrier for glory looking forward. And he can’t wait to renew his partnerships with trainers like Ernst Oertel and Seemar, who have backed him well. “Ernst has been a huge supporter of my career and I’ve ridden a lot of winners for him and without him I would definitely have not won as many championships as I have won,” O’Shea admitted. “The link up with Satish last year and again this year has proved instrumental. There were a lot of horses and a lot of firepower and it was fantastic to be part of that stable. “Working at both these stables side by side works well because Satish is mainly Thoroughbreds and Ernst predominantly Purebred Arabians. “I was happy to ride 42 winners and stay in one piece. It came to an early end, but it will have made us hungrier to get back next season. Each year it’s become harder and harder, but like I said it’s just been really really satisfying personally to win an eighth championship and numerically hold that record of most championships in the UAE.”