x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

New champion O'Shea riding high

Jockey wants to cap successful season as the Irishman bids to repeat his 2008 Dubai Kahayla Classic victory before jetting back to the UK.

Tadhg O'Shea, left, attributes his success this season to the quality of horses he rode.
Tadhg O'Shea, left, attributes his success this season to the quality of horses he rode.

DUBAI // It has been a season of firsts for Tadhg O'Shea. He claimed his maiden UAE jockeys' championship and rode his first winter season for his new boss, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid. And on Saturday he will attempt to register a career second when he bids to win the US$250,000 (Dh918,175) Dubai Kahayla Classic - a World Cup-day race that he claimed in 2008 on the great Mizzna.

The 28-year-old Irishman had the domestic championship sewn up after Abu Dhabi's final meet last Sunday. "It has been my best season by a long way," said O'Shea, who has ridden 35 winners since Novem-ber 6. "It was important to do well and I said I would be happy as long as I was riding winners but it was better than I could have hoped." O'Shea ended up sealing the championship by a convincing five wins from second and third placed jockeys, Wayne Smith and Royston Ffrench. Smith sneaked ahead of Ffrench by virtue of more seconds as both claimed 30 winners.

"It looked like it was going to be a lot tighter," said O'Shea. "Royston and Wayne have had great seasons and four meetings ago we were all on about 30 winners. But I managed to pull ahead over the weekend." O'Shea attributes his success to the wealth of classy horses available to him now he is second jockey to the Dubai owner, Sheikh Hamdan, who boasts strings in Europe and the UAE. Richard Hills, the son of Barry Hills, the prominent UK trainer, is Sheikh Hamdan's first jockey, but even with Hills getting the pick of the rides, O'Shea was able to ride plenty of winners.

O'Shea said he is also grateful to his agent, Ed Marnane, who has been booking his rides all season. "I was lucky enough to get on some lovely horses. Sheikh Hamdan has a lot of talent in his string and it has been a privilege to be part of that team," said O'Shea, who was given the coveted job during the 2009 English summer season, replacing the departing Martin Dwyer. "Now I'm looking forward to what the summer in Europe has to offer."

If his last European season was anything to go by, O'Shea is in for a treat. He recorded major victories for Sheikh Hamdan, in the Group Three Jersey Stakes on Ouqba at June's Royal Ascot and the Group Two Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood on Finjaan. But before he can focus on the UK, O'Shea has the small matter of four rides on the world's richest day of racing. Sheikh Hamdan's Kandar du Falgas bids for the showpiece Arabian race, the Kahayla Classic.

Green Coast, a winner over seven furlongs for O'Shea this season, runs in the $1m Godolphin Mile, Prince Shaun gets a shot in the $1m Al Quoz Sprint while Force Freeze will line up in the $2m Golden Shaheen. All four are prepared by Doug Watson, who will clinch the UAE trainers' championship from Ali Rashid al Raihe if he has a winner on Saturday. "I'd have to look on Kandar du Falgas as my best chance," said the rider of the 2009 Al Maktoum Challenge Round One winner. "Green Coast has been nothing but consistent and honest all season and I'm really looking forward to a shot at the Golden Shaheen on Force Freeze."

Win or lose there will be no time to reflect on his World Cup outings for a while as O'Shea will be winging his way to the UK on Sunday to honour early-season commitments at Lingfield. "It's going to be a busy summer but that's exactly how it should be," said the jockey. @Email:stregoning@thenational.ae