DUBAI // There is a lot to be said for the luck of the Irish, but there was nothing fortuitous about Irish jockey Tadhg O'Shea at Meydan Racecourse on Friday.
A solo race victory might be credited to riding a strong horse, two victories could be seen as good fortune, but three wins on the same sun-kissed afternoon and credit has to be given to the man in the saddle.
O'Shea rode Al Sharood to victory in the first race of the day, the 1,400-metre Ford Taurus Trophy for thoroughbreds, before complementing the victory with success on the back of Af Alghabra in the day's main draw, the Mazrat Al Ruwayah for Arabian Purebreds.
Little more than an hour later, O'Shea rode Mark To Market in the Ford Fusion Trophy and emerged victorious after enduring a tense photo finish with Lord Tiger.
"Delighted," O'Shea said when asked to describe his feelings.
Fourteen horses were declared in the meet-opening Ford Taurus Trophy with Factory Time – making his first start for Ali Rashid Al Raihe and saddled by Royston Ffrench – expected to impress.
Yet it was Factory Time's stablemate Big Zee who was fastest out the gate, taking an early lead over 200m only to be passed by Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed's Signs In The Sand, who led until the midway point.
Al Sharood, trained by Doug Watson and the only filly competing in the race, soon usurped him at the front and built a gap to pass the post first comfortably and take the lion's share of the Dh100,000 purse. The three-year-old, owned by Ali Saeed Bilhab, finished the race in one minute, 26.49 seconds to collect the Dh66,000 winners' pot.
"She got a little bit tired, but she's a nice filly," O'Shea said. "We've been training well. This was a starting stone; she showed good legs. I think she'll improve on fitness levels, but she did well and can only go onwards and upwards from here."
The afternoon's second race afforded a chance for Arabian purebreds to take centre stage as Af Alghabra – owned by Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda – rode to victory on the dirt over 1,600m to claim the Mazrat crown. She had to fight hard to wrest the lead – and the spotlight – late on from last year's winner, the hotly tipped Kandar Du Falgas.
Kandar's trainer, Doug Watson, had said pre-race he believed the Eric Lemartinel-trained pair of Nieshan and Albar Lotois to be favourites, but the two French colts – who both competed in the National Cup in Abu Dhabi last month – were forced to settle for third and fourth, respectively. Fryvolous, the 2008 winner who yesterday led for a short period mid-race, slipped back near the end to finish fifth.
"She has taken on everything we've asked and is very genuine" O'Shea said of Af Alghabra, the six-year-old, Gillian Duffield-trained horse.
Shortly after Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Russian Rock claimed the 1,200m Ford Explorer Trophy for Fathi Esaed Mohammed Egziama, O'Shea secured the Ford Fusion Trophy to complete his treble. The day's fourth event had seen the Irishman saddle Mark To Market, owned by the Emirates Entertainment Racing Syndicate (EERS) and trained by Watson, but a slow start saw Dubai Set and Firstknight battling for the lead. At the midway point Lord Tiger had stormed ahead and held the lead until the dying moments as O'Shea and Mark To Market surged forward to ensure a photo finish.
After a prolonged wait, it was the Watson-trained gelding that was announced victorious. Watson proved successful once more moments later to cap his own personal treble when Clasp, owned by EERS, won the Ford Mustang Trophy over 1,600m.
The final race of the day – the Ford Edge Trophy – was won with ease by three-year-old Jamr, gifting Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed his first victory of the afternoon, courtesy of the Mubarak bin Shafya-trained gelding.