Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 5 July 2020

Dubai World Cup: Tadhg O'Shea backs decision to call off meet due to coronavirus pandemic

'Everyone connected with the Dubai World Cup and the racing industry were naturally disappointed but this is an extraordinary situation.'

UAE champion jockey Tadhg O'Shea was booked on five rides at this Saturday's Dubai World Cup before the meeting was called off by officials. Victor Besa / The National
UAE champion jockey Tadhg O'Shea was booked on five rides at this Saturday's Dubai World Cup before the meeting was called off by officials. Victor Besa / The National

UAE champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea has backed the decision to cancel Saturday's Dubai World Cup as the country takes measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Organisers on Sunday called off what would have been the Dubai World Cup's 25th anniversary at Meydan Racecourse following directives by the UAE government for people to stay at home.

The Emirates Racing Authority also announced the cancellation of the remaining six race meetings of the season at Meydan, Jebel Ali, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. It also suspended the end-of-season sale of horses, thus bringing the 2019/20 season to an abrupt end.

“The cancellation of the Dubai World Cup and the remaining race meetings were inevitable,” O’Shea told The National.

“Everyone connected with the Dubai World Cup and the racing industry were naturally disappointed but this is an extraordinary situation. Like in all such cases, safety comes first for me.

“These are difficult times for the entire world but obviously we need to move on from here, wishing this pandemic will soon be over and life becomes normal again.”

O’Shea had five rides across the nine races at this year's Dubai World Cup, the richest night in horse racing with $35 million (Dh129m) in prize money.

Despite his obvious disappointment, the Irishman said that pales in comparison as the Covid-19 continues to claim thousands of lives.

“This year’s Dubai World Cup meeting is behind us but certainly there’ll be more in the coming years,” O'Shea said.

“At the end of the day it was the right decision. It is a traumatic time for many people around the world. To be safe and to keep everyone safe is what’s needed at this time.”

The decision to call off the season was bittersweet for O'Shea, 38, who has been crowned the UAE's champion jockey for a record eight time.

The Irishman ended the season on 42 winners, six more than his nearest challenger Richard Mullen, and is the only rider to win the crown three years in a row for a second time.

O’Shea, 38, also holds the record as the all-time leading jockey in the country on 552 winners, surpassing Richard Hill's previous mark of 504 last season.

“To win another jockey’s title was fantastic,” he said. “Once again, I have a lot of people to thank. I was very fortunate to have some good horses to ride for the two stables I work and plenty of spare rides.”

O’Shea is the retained jockey for the UAE champion owner-elect Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah and he was also engaged as stable jockey for Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid’s Jebel Ali Stables at the beginning of the season.

The arrangement to ride for two stables worked out well for O’Shea, as Al Naboodah’s string consists of predominantly Purebred Arabians trained by Ernst Oertel.

That keeps him free to ride the thoroughbreds of the Jebel Ali Stables trainer Nicholas Bachalard. O’Shea also continues to ride as the second jockey to Mullen for the Zabeel Stables trainer Satish Seemar.

“Dubai has been good to me and I like to carry on in the same routine as I have done in the past,” said O’Shea, who has been riding in the Emirates since 2001.

“I travel home to Ireland for the summer but I’m back in Dubai by October, which has been my routine.

“Back home, I ride for Jimmy Long [of Thistle Bloodstock’s] and some Arabians to keep myself busy and in good shape but my focus full-time is the job in Dubai.”

Updated: March 23, 2020 04:48 PM

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