Tadhg O’Shea has crossed a few milestones in his 20 years of riding in the UAE that are unlikely to be visited again.
It has been two decades of remarkable success on the racecourse. However, the Irishman has dedicated all those feats to the man who first brought him to the country – the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, one of the leading owner-breeders of thoroughbred and Purebred Arabian race horses in the world.
O'Shea first arrived on a scholarship presented to the champion apprentice in Ireland by Sheikh Hamdan, the UAE minister of Finance and Deputy Ruler of Dubai who passed away last week.
O’Shea was 19 when he first visited Dubai and he rode for four different trainers – Erwan Charpy, Paddy Rudkin, Kiaran McLaughlin and John Sadler – in four months.
He returned on the same scholarship in the following year having won the apprentice championship again.
Fast forward a couple of decades and O’Shea is now on the verge of winning the UAE jockey’s championship for the ninth time. He is on 43 winners and is 18 ahead of his closest challenger Antonio Fresu with five meetings left.
The record-breaking champion jockey dedicated all his successes to the late Sheikh Hamdan.
“All credit really goes to the late His Highness Sheikh Hamdan who brought me here for the first time in 2001 on a scholarship with all expenses paid for the champion apprentice,” he said.
“I dedicate all my achievements to His Highness for the huge influence he had in my career.”
O’Shea is also four short of another milestone – the first jockey to reach 600 winners in the UAE.
Adding to his records this season is his first thoroughbred success in the Dubai World Cup meeting, on board the Satish Seemar-trained Secret Ambition in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile.
“That has to be the highlight of the season,” he said of his success on board Secret Ambition.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid at Dubai World Cup
It has been another fantastic season and hopefully a ninth championship in the bag with a very good lead.
“Look, I have a lot of people to thank. First of all my boss Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah and his trainer Ernst Oertel, for whom I have ridden a lot of Purebred Arabians winners.
“Satish and Bhupath Seemar [assistant trainer] for the thoroughbreds. The two combined for two very powerful stables.”
O’Shea narrowly missed winning the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic, the Arabian showpiece and traditional opener of the Dubai World Cup meeting, on the same night.
He was runner up on Oertel’s AF Alwajel in the silks of Al Naboodah, a prize he had previously won on board AF Maher in 2019 for the same connection and the Eric Lemartinel-trained Mizzna in 2008.
O’Shea is the all-time leading jockey in the UAE. He surpassed the record seven UAE championship titles of Ted Durcan and crossed the 504-winner mark of Richard Hills in March 2019.
O’Shea hasn’t made any immediate plans for the summer because of the prevailing Covid situation.
“The focus is to complete the UAE season [in the next two weekends] with as many winners we can and then recharge and recuperate to come fresh for the new season,” he said.
O’Shea is booked to ride 17 horses from 19 races at Al Ain, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi across three days from Friday to Sunday.