The United Arab Emirates champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea completed a double during the final fixture of the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club season on Sunday. The feat saw the Irish rider achieve his 600th winner in the Emirates since his arrival there twenty years ago.
The County Cork-born rider, who previously worked for Irish trainer Michael Halford, first arrived in the UAE on a scholarship presented to the Irish champion apprentice jockey by the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former Deputy Ruler of Dubai.
Then a nineteen-year-old, the young jockey rode for four different trainers during that four month spell in the UAE in 2001: Paddy Rudkin, Kiaran McLaughlin, John Sadler and Erwan Charpy, to whom he later became stable jockey for five years.
The following season, having retained his Irish apprentice jockey’s title, he received another scholarship from the renowned thoroughbred owner-breeder to return to Dubai.
In 2008 Angus Gold, the racing manager for Sheikh Hamdan, offered O’Shea the position as understudy to the stable’s retained rider, a role he undertook for four years, while also signing up as first jockey to Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.
In 2013 Ernst Oertel asked the Irishman to ride for Al Asayl. He enjoyed three successful season with them before the owner and trainer went their separate ways.
While later riding for Eric Lemartinel, Khalid Al Nabooda chose O’Shea as his retained rider, with his horses being trained by Ernst Oertel.
This season, O’Shea won the UAE jockey’s championship for an incredible ninth time. His double yesterday saw him pass the 600 winner mark in the UAE, thanks to AF Asham and AF Alajaj.
The former claimed the 1200m (6 furlong) maiden in a 14-horse field. AF Asham, a debutant four-year-old colt took the initiative shortly after halfway and galloped on resolutely as he responded gamely to the urgings of O’Shea. The Irishman was riding for his main employer Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and the owner’s principal trainer Ernst Oertel.
The same connections were soon celebrating a double, and O’Shea his 600th Emirates’ winner, when AF Alajaj had a smooth success in a 1600m (1 mile) handicap.
O’Shea’s judgement was seen to perfection as he had the choice of no less than seven runners to choose from representing owner Al Nabooda and trainer Oertel in that race.
The Dromahane, Co. Cork native settled his mount towards the rear of midfield, before the four-year-old colt made stealthy progress entering the home turn. Once in the home stretch, AF Alajaj sprinted to the front with about 250m remaining to win for the third time from four starts.
For the multiple-time UAE champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea, whose first ever victory in the country came aboard the Pure Arabian Danidor in December 2001, it was an unprecedented 600th UAE winner.
Reacting to the achievement, the Irish jockey said:
“Wow, 600, that is amazing, but as I always say, I have the easy job and just steer them around in a race. It is all the teams behind the horses who do all the hard work.”
“Now I am riding mainly for Ernst and his team, Karl his brother back at the farm does so much good work and all the staff. I have a great job for Mr Al Nabooda and this is an exciting horse, both on turf and dirt. I think he has a big race prize in him.”
In the past couple of seasons O’Shea has surpassed the record for the number of winners in the UAE, previously held by Englishman Michael Hills at 504. He also surpassed his fellow Irish jockey Ted Durcan’s record number of UAE jockeys’ titles when he won the seventh of his current nine.
In what has been an incredible 2020-21 season for O’Shea, only last month he achieved a lifetime ambition with his first thoroughbred success at the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan Racecourse when he rode the Satish Seemar-trained Secret Ambition to victory in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile.
Photo: Courtesy of Tadhg O’Shea’s Twitter, @OsheaTadhg