While most of the racing focus in recent days has been on the Cheltenham Festival, there was always a danger the achievement of Irish-born jockey Tadhg O’Shea in Abu Dhabi might go unnoticed.
The Cork rider drew level with English jockey Richard Hills at the top of the all-time UAE jockeys’ statistics when winning the opening 1,600m maiden, restricted to horses foaled in the UAE, aboard AF Al Moreeb at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club last Sunday.
Commenting on his achievement, O’Shea said:
“Look, it was fantastic to equal and I hope that I can win and surpass that. I didn’t think when I came here in 2001 that I’d be lucky and privileged to ride as many winners. UAE has been a very lucky place for me and my family. The main thing was to stay health and hopefully, I will have a few more winners by the end of this season.”
AF Al Moreeb, a 4-year-old colt bred by Khalid Khalifa Al Naboda, who retains the services of O’Shea, was trained by Ernst Oertel. Third, then fourth, on his first two career outings over 1,400m at Abu Dhabi, the colt then disappointed on the dirt surface at Al Ain, but bounced back to form in gutsy fashion, fending off the persistent challenge of Al Shaheenya throughout the final 300m.
The winning rider and six-time UAE Champion jockey explained:
“This horse has taken a while to learn what is required and for whatever reason, he did not take too well to Al Ain and the dirt the last day, but was much happier back here on the turf. His two Abu Dhabi runs were good ones before that and he has bounced back to that level of performance. Now he has a win to his name, hopefully it will do his confidence the power of good.”
O’Shea was then denied a double when AF Kafu was collared 250m from home in a 2,200m handicap by Hazeme and although he tried gallantly to fight back, he could not regain the initiative.
Tadhg O’Shea has now ridden 503 winners in the United Arab Emirates and was UAE Champion jockey in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018. He currently leads this season’s Jockey Championship with 39 winners, 26 second places and 34 third places from 279 runs.