Veteran UAE champion jockey partners Bhupat Seemar’s Remorse in $12 million race
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Tadhg O’Shea has been riding for more than 20 years in the UAE. He is the all-time leading jockey with 665 winners and is on course to win an unprecedented 10th jockeys’ championship title.
The Irishman will add another feather to his cap when he partners the Bhupat Seemar-trained Remorse in the Dh12 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup at the Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.
Dubai World Cup 2022: tickets, date and all you need to know
It will be his first outing in the Dubai World Cup – the showpiece racing event that he has been watching from outside the racetrack for two decades.
“Remorse is going to be a very special ride for me because I have been in Dubai for more than 20 years and never ridden in the Dubai World Cup,” he told The National.
“I was due to ride War Story in 2020 but unfortunately the Dubai World Cup was cancelled due to Covid.
“So this would be my very first ride in the Dubai World Cup. It’s an amazing race and a very tough competition but I’m privileged to be in the race which I think is the best in the world.”
O’Shea, 39, described his first ride in the 26th edition of the race as a “huge achievement”.
“I have worked very hard throughout the whole season from early October and to finish off the season riding in one of the most famous races in the world is very satisfying on a personal level,” he said.
“We know we are against some amazing horses. Remorse is in great form and he obviously is climbing through the ranks. He’s got to improve again to get in front of the other guys but it’s a great privilege and honour to be associated with a great race.”
Remorse has won three times in 13 starts and finished runner-up eight times. He made a winning reappearance this season and has been runner-up four times, the last time in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 over the Dubai World Cup track and trip.
Aside from Remorse, the champion jockey will have four more rides across the nine races on the night.
He partners Ernst Oertel’s AF Alajaj in the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic, the traditional opener and Arabian showpiece of the meeting.
“AF Alajaj is a very nice horse and is training very well,” O’Shea said of the five-year-old son of AF Albahar, winner of his last start in the Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah over the 1,600m trip at Meydan on February 11.
“I liked him from the very first moment I sat on him, three years ago. He shows a lot of speed at home. He’s first time doing the distance [2,000m]. He doesn’t have the ideal gate number at 15 [out of the 16 starters] but he’s a very good horse and good horses can overcome bad draws.”
Next for O’Shea is the Group 2 Godolphin Mile, a prize he won on Secret Ambition 12 months ago.
“The Godolphin Mile was probably the hardest decision I ever had to make in Dubai so far, because I got off last year’s winner Secret Ambition,” he said.
“Secret Ambition has been an amazing horse in my career. I have never finished out of the top three [on her]. But I just felt, Al Nefud, I have ridden him twice and won both times on him. He’s got younger legs and he’s the horse that’s possibly open to the most improvement.”
O’Shea’s rides Bendoog in the Group 2 UAE Derby. He made a winning debut before finishing fourth in the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas and third in the Listed Al Bastakiya.
“Bendoog is a big horse and a big galloper with huge strides,” O’Shea said of the Gun Runner colt.
“He’s drawn nicely in stall five. He’s training well and very much looking forward to this race. Whatever happens this year, he’s an exciting horse for the next season.”
QuoteI have worked very hard for what I have achieved so farTadhg O'Shea
“Switzerland is a stable favourite,” O’Shea said of his mount in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
“I rode him on Monday and [was] very happy with him. It’s a very good race as anyone can imagine for a Group 1. The faster they go, the better it suits Switzerland. Hoping for a big run.”
O’Shea is on 64 winners, seven more than his closest challenger Antonio Fresu in the UAE jockeys’ championship. Another title seems well within his reach.
“I have worked very hard for what I have achieved so far,” O’Shea said of his milestones in the UAE.
“The smaller races mean as much as the bigger races for me. I try 110 per cent on all horses.
“It’s important too because the owners, trainers and stable staff put in so much into it for a horse to win, so you need to try to win on every horse and it’s important for everybody to get results.”
O’Shea feels proud to ride for both Seemar’s Zabeel Stables on the thoroughbreds and Oertel-trained Purebred Arabians for the Emirati owner-breeder Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah.
“I worked very hard to be the champion jockey over the years and if I can manage to hold on to a 10th championship that will be amazing,” he said.
“A lot of people told me this season would be somebody else but that made me to work harder to prove everybody the champion is still here.”
O’Shea missed three meetings when he tested positive for Covid, which allowed Fresu to get level on him but once out of isolation the Irishman hit back to build a lead.
“I had to do what all champions do to make it a real battle,” he added. “I always say if people want a battle, give them a war.”
O’Shea revealed the biggest inspiration of his success is his family – wife Debbie and two sons Daragh (11) and Aaron (9).
“My family, wife and two sons, have been a huge help to me with both good times and bad times,” he said.
“You need to have the support of a good family. My two sons are very interested and very involved, and they let me know when they think if I’m on the wrong horse.
“Daragh and Aaron are really interested in racing, which is great. And if both of them want to become jockeys they can take over from the father.”
Updated: March 23, 2022, 4:48 AM