UAE - Losing a mother is one of the hardest things we have to deal with in life and it invariably has a significant impact on everything we do thereafter.
Tadhg O’Shea, one of the giants of UAE horse racing, is having to deal with that huge personal loss but the 10-time UAE Champion Jockey asserts that he is more motivated than ever as he heads into the culmination of another whirlwind season and next Saturday’s $30.5 million Dubai World Cup meeting.
O’Shea has a strong book of five rides at the flagship meeting, including four for his boss Bhupat Seemar at the Zabeel Stables and one for his close allies and huge supporters Ernst Ortel and Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda on AF Alajaj in the Kahayla Classic.
“I’ve actually had a very tough winter and then sadly I actually lost my mother, Ann, on the 17th of February,” said O’Shea.
“I used to say that she was always looking in on all my races, now I’d like to think that she’s looking down watching me from up above.”
The most successful rider in UAE racing history, O’Shea looks set to win an unprecedented 11th jockey’s title, having ridden a staggering 60 winners for the season, 15 clear of his closest rival, Antonio Fresu.
“If I could win an 11th championship it would probably mean more to me than the 10 before that,” said the ever-smiling rider from County Cork in Ireland.
“Not to take anything away from the 10 titles that I have won already but given what I and my family have been through recently, it would be extra special to win it in her memory.
“When she was ill, I was forced to miss several meetings to be with her in Ireland. She wouldn’t want me to feel sorry for myself, she would want me to be extra motivated and continue to ride winners.”
Twelve months ago, O’Shea bagged the biggest win of his career when he rode Switzerland to victory in the $ 2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup night, and next Saturday he will be reunited with the UAE’s top sprinter in a bid to make history at Meydan.
“We’re always confident going into a meeting like the Dubai World Cup thanks to horses like Switzerland,” said O’Shea.
“He ran a huge race last year and has been training extremely well. He’s an older horse now (9 years) but he still has plenty of enthusiasm and ability. We decided to give him just one prep race, the Dubawi Stakes which he won very nicely, and then go straight to the Golden Shaheen. That’s been the plan all the way,” he added
“I galloped him the other day and he felt really good. He’s ready. This year’s renewal looks like an extremely tough race on paper but obviously, Switzerland has been there and done it.”
Zabeeel's star sprinter will be joined by two other stable companions including Sound Money, who O’Shea describes as ‘an exciting sprinter on the way up,’ and the speedy Tuz, who hardly ever runs a bad race.
O’Shea also teams up with another Zabeel stalwart, Remorse who is joined by the up-and-coming Bendoog in the $12 million Dubai World Cup.
“Remorse has been a very good horse for the stable,” said the talented rider. “He excelled himself to finish sixth last year behind Country Grammer but probably underperformed in Saudi Arabia where he did not like the track and could only finish in eighth place.
“But he’ll be much happier back at Meydan and I'm really looking forward to the ride. We're up for the task.”
O’Shea, who will also team up with new recruit Logo Hunter in the $ 1 million Al Quoz Sprint, commented: “He ran very well on his debut for the stable and only finished third beaten two short head's. We feel he will improve plenty for the race.
“He’s an exciting horse and a very nice addition to the stable. We're hoping for a very big run.
“Godolphin has three high-class horses in the race, Al Suhail, Man Of Promise, and Lusail, so it looks like an ultra-competitive race, but we’re hopeful our fella runs a big race.”
O’Shea has been based in Dubai for close to two decades since he first arrived here in 2001, on a special scholarship invitation from the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and former Finance Minister, after winning two champion apprentice titles in Ireland.
“Had it not been for Sheikh Hamdan who knows what would have happened,” reflects O’Shea. “Because Dubai is where you want to be with all the best jockeys, trainers, and horses in the world.
“If you look at the fields that have been lined up for the Dubai World Cup meeting it kind of blows you away.
“I’m super excited to be part of this and it’s not long before it happens.”
O’Shea admitted that he has expectations for the big night, but said that he would be happy to win one race, for his mum Ann, and if there were more, it would be ‘amazing.’
> Tadhg was born in Dromahane, County Cork, Ireland
> Coming from a non-racing background, he learned his craft at the renowned Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) on the Curragh plains in Kildare
> After graduating in 1998, he teamed up with Kildare-based trainer Michael Halford and was crowned champion Irish apprentice in 2001 with 26 wins, three more than Colm O’Donoghue, his closest challenger
> One of his early successes in Dubai was when he won the Dubai Kahayla Classic in 2008 aboard an Arabian horse called Mizzna
> At the age of 27, was appointed second jockey to Sheikh Hamdan with the principal role being held by retained rider Richard Hills
> In 2019, he surpassed Richard Hills' record of 504 wins at Abu Dhabi and had gone on to ride over 600 winners
> Tadhg’s wife Debbie comes from a racing family. His father-in-law owns and runs the breeding side of the Blackhall Stud in Wexford while his brothers-in-law run the training side
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