Each year, the best horses, jockeys and trainers travel to the UAE to compete in the Dubai World Cup, one of the most iconic races in modern-day horse racing. But only one of them goes home a winner.

On Saturday evening, trainer Bhupat Seemar and his trusted stable jockey Tadhg O’Shea, combined to script a fairytale eight-length victory with Laurel River at Meydan racecourse’s most memorable day.


Horse racing can be hair-raising, and how Laurel River annihilated his 11 world-class rivals must have given most of the 60,000 racing fans at the venue goosebumps.

One of them was Bhupat himself as he stood with his wife and assistant trainer, Caroline, to watch his superstar deliver one of the most dominant victories ever seen in the race - an electrifying performance which eclipsed the great Dubai Millennium, a six-length winner in 2000.


“When you have a horse running in the World Cup you think it’s a big deal and then to actually win it and in the manner that he did, was just incredible,” Bhupat told Khaleej Times on Sunday morning.

“I just couldn’t believe it and I had to watch the race a couple more times this morning just to convince myself that it was real. My God, he was exceptional.

“You know what, it takes you a lifetime to train and get a horse like this and then to see him win it the way he did has to be the most incredible two minutes of my life,” the Zabeel Stables boss added.

“Last night I came home early to get some much-needed rest after such an emotional evening. When there’s such a big build-up to an event like the Dubai World Cup it takes a lot out of you, both physically and emotionally, because you have to put in all the hard work. And when it’s over you just heave a big sigh of relief.”

The morning after Tadhg O’Shea was experiencing something similar as he watched re-runs of the race with his wife Debbie, sons Daragh and Aaron, his sister Viv and his nephew, Ross.

“I’m still in a state of shock, I can’t believe it,” the eleven-time UAE champion jockey said. “I’ve watched the Dubai World Cup for many, many years and been absolutely in awe of it.

“I’ve also been fortunate to ride in it three times but to win it, and win it like we did, was just incredible. This has to be the pinnacle of my career.

“I’m forever grateful to Juddmonte (the stable founded in 1980 by the late Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia) for giving me this opportunity to ride him,” Tadhg added. “There were only 12 runners in the race and they, being a worldwide organization, could have used any jockey in the world, but they kept the faith in me.”

The talented Irishman, who has been associated with several top horses during his illustrious career, described Laurel River as the best horse has ever ridden.

“I rode him in his final piece of work just before the Dubai World Cup and he just blew me away,” said Tadhg. “I couldn’t help but call Bhupat aside and whisper to him what I had just said. And I didn’t say it lightly.

“Because he’s an absolute machine, he changes gears like a racing car. I can’t wait to ride him again.”

Reflecting on the magnitude of winning a race like the Dubai World Cup almost 22 years since he first arrived in Dubai as a youngster filled with dreams Tadhg said: “I’ve been in Dubai for over 20 years and I’ve been lucky enough to have had five World Cup night winners up to now.

“But to win the big one was surreal and with my wife and family watching it was extra special.”

Ever the team man Tadhg saluted Bhupat and the ‘wonderful team’ that he has in place at the historic Zabeel Stables.

“It was nice to win it for him and the whole team – from the grooms to the rider out to the barn men to the assistants,” he said. “They all came together to make this happen. Everyone does their bit, everyone knows what is required and everybody is hoping to win on the big stage. And we finally did.”

Bhopal Singh, one of the grooms who looks after Laurel River among many other horses at Zabeel Stable’s prestigious Barn B, said he fell in love with the horse ever since the day that he arrived at the stable.

“I felt he was special. He’s a lovely horse,” said the seasoned groom from Rajasthan in India. “I have been working in stables for almost 20 years, but when I saw Laurel River, there was an immediate connection.

“Today, I’m the happiest man in the world.”

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