Jockey Tadhg O’Shea out to consolidate his position at the top as new UAE season begins

Irishman starts 2021-22 season as first jockey at Zabeel Stables

Tadhg O’Shea is far ahead of the field when it comes to racing records in the UAE. And it looked unlikely he will be matched anytime soon.

The Irishman is already way out in front with an all-time record of 602 winners and has nine UAE jockey’s championship titles in the bag.

He now has the opportunity to stretch his unprecedented streak when riding for two powerful stables in the new season that gets underway with a seven-race card at Jebel Ali on Friday.

O’Shea rides as first jockey for six-time UAE champion trainer Satish Seemar at the Zabeel Stables and continues as the retained rider for Emirati owner/breeder Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah on his Purebred Arabians housed at another four-time champion trainer Ernst Oertel’s yard.

“I’m very privileged with the position I have with both stables and obviously I’m keen and enthusiastic as ever,” O’Shea told The National.

The Zabeel stables is not a new surrounding for O’Shea, who has been riding in the UAE for more than two decades since arriving in 2001 after winning the first of two champion apprentice titles in Ireland.

O’Shea was the second jockey to Richard Mullen at Zabeel for the last three years and has ridden plenty of winners for them.

“It’s basically the same role I have been doing but maybe as the first choice rider I get to choose if there are more than one horse entered in the race, of course with the help of Satish and Bupath (Seemar – assistant trainer).

“It is important to work as a team as sometimes they like you on a horse you won on or an owner might request you ride his horse. It’s not Tadhg O’Shea making decisions.

“There are lot of things that go behind the scene with the owners, and sometimes you have to look down further than the role, like you may ride a horse as he might need the race for fitness or long term he might be the best horse.”

A good example O’Shea pointed out was his partnership with Secret Ambition, winner the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on the Dubai World Cup night.

“When he ran his first race of the season the owner wanted me to ride him and the outcome was a win on the World Cup night,” O’Shea said.

“Sometimes it’s not as simple as the entries come out and ride the best horse on the day but sometimes you have to look at the longer plan.

“I’m fortunate to win nine jockeys championships and ride over 600 winners but I come back every year to ride as many winners as possible.

“As the championship goes, a lot of things have to go right. You have to stay healthy, you have to stay out of the steward’s room and you have to be lucky, which is a big part.

“With regards to the championship, I always re-evaluate in February, when we have a month or six weeks left. Obviously if I’m within striking distance or in front, it’s always the realistic target.

“But at the start of the season, it’s just go out and ride winners for the trainer and owners.”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Amith Passela. Sport. Horse Racing. Secret Ambition ridden by Tadhg O'Shea wins the Firebreak Stakes at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. Dubai. Thursday, February 4th, 2021. Chris Whiteoak / The National

O’Shea has had many good memories and rode many good horses but described Secret Ambition as a “very good horse in my career” at Zabeel.

“I don’t think I had a poor ride on him ever in eight starts,” he said. “The worst I would have finished was third on him. I have won three races and second four times. He’s an amazing horse for me and everybody needs a good horse like this.”

On the Arabians, he picked up AF Alwajel, the runner up in the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic on the Dubai World Cup night.

“He ran a big race and he’s a very exciting horse, and hopefully can fill the shoes of his predecessor AF Maher that won the 2019 Kahayla Classic,” he added.

“There are some lovely new babies with Ernst but we won’t be able to know much of them until late in November. It’s the same at Zabeel with some beautiful two year olds.

“It’s like young kids going to school. We need to handle them gently without putting them under pressure and without pressing any serious buttons. Both stables have some beautiful horses going forward.”

Aside from riding winners, O’Shea believes staying healthy is his goal every year.

“After that let’s try riding winners,” he said. “I’ll be riding for a lot of important owners and the main thing is to try and do my job to the best of my abilities to get results."

O’Shea returned to Dubai after a quiet summer back home in Dromahane, County Cork.

“The summer wasn’t as busy as most with Covid,” he said. “It was great to spend more time with the family and re-charge the batteries ahead of a very busy time in the UAE.

“I rode out every day for my brother-in-law and the national hunt horses back home. Now really looking forward to go full steam ahead in the new season.”

Updated: October 28th 2021, 12:04 PM