x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Trainer O’Shea unburdened after taking over Sheikh Mohammed’s string in Australia

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid selects Australian trainer to oversee approximately 200 horses, the largest thoroughbred operation in southern hemisphere, reports Geoffrey Riddle.

Australian horse trainer John O’Shea, centre, shown here with jockey Glen Boss, is the new trainer to the Darley Australia string. Jon Buckle / Getty Images
Australian horse trainer John O’Shea, centre, shown here with jockey Glen Boss, is the new trainer to the Darley Australia string. Jon Buckle / Getty Images

It is every horseman’s dream to no longer have to worry about veterinary and staff bills, or where the money will come from to replenish stock for the future.

None of those things will furrow the brow of John O’Shea beginning in May, when he takes over as trainer of the Darley Australia string, the largest thoroughbred operation in the southern hemisphere, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

O’Shea has spent 13 years since he received his trainer’s licence currying favour with a multitude of owners. In four months only one will matter.

Sheikh Mohammed personally chose the Australian trainer and seemed to get on well with his new hire last week when the two men drove around the Emirate in a Mercedes 4WD.

“It was an unbelievable day,” said O’Shea, 44. “We drove around the desert with him for a few hours and watched endurance horses. We had a laugh and he’s a very charismatic guy. He has a good understanding of horses and has a passion for racing.

“When you are with him you don’t think of him as the ruler of Dubai, you just see him as a racing enthusiast.

“Going to work for Darley you no longer need to worry about AUS$40,000 (Dh130,641) to pay the staff every week or a million and a half for the sales. Looking after a couple of hundred of owners will also end.”

O’Shea will replace Peter Snowden, who announced his retirement recently after amassing 35 Group 1 wins and AUS$35m in prize money in the six years he was at the helm of the operation, which has approximately 200 horses in training, and many more in pre-training.

Since taking out a trainer’s licence in 1999, O’Shea has trained 18 winners at the highest level, but is battling this week to keep his best horses as his current ownership roster gets the jitters at his imminent departure.

Immediately after Monday’s announcement, O’Shea reportedly lost the care of Steps In Time, a winner at Group 2 level, who was removed from his stables.

He will continue to train Savvy Nature, his best horse, who is being aimed at the Australian Derby and the AUS$4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes. O’Shea hopes Snowden will take over as the horse’s trainer when he leaves.

“A lot of what happens to my horses depends greatly on whether Peter takes over my horses – it will be a nice neat swap,” O’Shea said in an interview with RSN Racing and Sport radio.

“I haven’t spoken to Peter yet, but I have canvassed a lot of my owners and they would be very happy to have him.”

O’Shea has previously relied on the skills of jockeys James MacDonald, the star New Zealand rider, and Glenn Boss, the Melbourne Cup winner, but will have to develop a relationship with Kerrin McEvoy, Sheikh Mohammed’s retained rider in Australia.

Among the 200 horses that O’Shea can look forward to training is Guelph, who heads the string and was a finalist in the two-year-old category for Australia horse of the year.

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