Tadgh O’Shea dedicates Dubai World Cup win to 'biggest fan' - his late mother

UAE champion jockey believes Laurel River can target Saudi Cup and title defence in Dubai

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Tadhg O’Shea dedicated his Dubai World Cup triumph – “my biggest career win” – to his late mother, Ann.

The Irishman scooped the $12 million Group 1 prize on the Bhupat Seemar-trained Laurel River to claim the biggest race of his career at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.

He completed a Group 1 double on the night after steering another Seemar-trained runner, Tuz, to victory in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.

Saturday's Dubai World Cup win was the crowning glory on what is already a standout career for O'Shea. He’s out on his own as the all-time leading jockey in the UAE with 779 winners and counting, and the UAE champion jockey-elect for a record-extending 12th time this season.

Despite the record, winning the Dubai World Cup had been a distant dream for the Irishman. That was until Saturday.

“My mother passed away on February 17 last year. She was my biggest fan and supporter and she definitely was on my shoulder on the night,” O’Shea told The National a day after his triumph.

“These things normally don’t happen. Some of the other jockeys have their big days every week. I’m sure she was pushing me or keeping the rest back from above.”

O’Shea has twice rode in the big race, riding Remorse to sixth in 2022 and finishing ninth on the same horse the following year.

“This obviously was my biggest win and to win two Group 1 prizes on the same night was amazing. I rode twice in the World Cup in the last two years and thankfully third time lucky,” he said.

O’Shea broke well from the widest draw of 12 runners and settled Laurel River in front after the first furlong. He was 10 lengths ahead of the chasing pack when turning for home and eventually came out eight and-a-half lengths ahead of last year’s winner Ushba Tesoro and the $20 million Saudi Cup winner Senor Buscador.

“He’s a very straightforward horse,” O’Shea said of the six-year-old son of Into Mischief.

“He jumped out of the gate very well. The plan was to go forward and if someone wanted to go up, we could sit second or third. He was within his comfort zone in the front.

“Then I started picking up and letting him stretch from 800 metres into the turn and then he really straightened up. I still had a lot of horse left. Then I said to myself Ít's gonna take a monster effort for something to get to me'.”

O’Shea revealed he and Seemar were left to devise their tactics unimpeded ahead of the race.

“Bhupat was training the horse and I was riding the horse,” O’Shea said. “The connections of the horse never interfered with the riding instructions. They left it to us even though they had many champions over the years. It shows the class of these people.

They left it to us even though they had many champions over the years. It shows the class of these people
Tadhg O'Shea on the conversations he had with the owners

“I was just privileged to be left on him because they could've used any jockey from anywhere in the world. So, I’m thankful they let me on him.”

Laurel River came into the race following a lengthy lay-off for his three runs for the Zabeel Stables in Dubai and O’Shea believes it’s too early to speak about future plans.

“Perhaps keep him in training for next season and maybe give him a race before having a crack [at the] Saudi Cup, as his owners are from the kingdom. And then obviously have another go in retaining the Dubai World Cup.”

Obviously on a high following his Dubai World Cup success, O’Shea, with more than 20 years of riding experience, is already planning for his next assignments as he closes in on another domestic jockey championsship.

He is aiming for the last two domestic meetings in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain on Thursday and Friday.

O’Shea, chasing an unprecedented 12th UAE jockey crown, is on 49 winners for the season, seven ahead of his closest challenge Connor Beasley.

“It’s been a great season for both Bhupat and me,” O’Shea said. “The way I look at it, the season isn't finished yet. We’ll enjoy this Dubai World Cup meeting, obviously.”

Seemar is level with the Jebel Ali Stables trainer Michael Costa on 36 winners apiece but if it finishes in a tie, the Zabeel Stables boss will win his second trainers' title by virtue of more second and third place finishes.

“We have three thoroughbred races left in the last two meetings, which are predominantly for the Purebred Arabians,” O’Shea added. “If Bhupat and I can win the championship crowns, it would be the icing on the cake to a great season.”

Updated: April 01, 2024, 3:20 AM