Abu Dhabi: Six-time UAE champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea entered the history books by equalling Richard Hills’ all-time UAE record of 503 wins at the Abu Dhabi Racing and Equestrian Club on Sunday.
O’Shea, who was just two victories shy from breaking the record going into the capital showdown, clinched one win in the six-race card for the evening.
“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,” said the 37-year-old, who has won the UAE Champions Jockey title in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018.
“I have a lot of people to thank and too many to mention but they all know who they are; lots of trainers and owners. 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,” added O’Shea, who also leads this season’s Jockey Championship with 39 winners, 26 second places and 34 third places from 279 runs.
The Irishman was booked in all six races slotted for the evening at the Abu Dhabi racecourse. From the five Purebred Arabians for trainer Ernst Oertel, he picked a couple of wrong horses and will have to wait for another opportunity to surpass the tally.
O’Shea, in the silks of Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, did make a strong statement that he is not going to wait for another day by winning the first race — 1,600m Derrinstown Stud for pure-Arabians — on AF Al Moreeb.
After leading from the front from the start, O’Shea made sure AF Al Moreeb held on the challenge from a fast finishing Al Shaheenya, trained by Eric Lemartinel and ridden by Fabrice Veron, by a neck.
After equalling the record, O’Shea could have surpassed it in the second race itself; Shadwell Farm for Pure Arabians over 1,600m, but he chose to ride AF Alnwha ahead of stablemate AF Makerah. Jockey Adrie de Vries made sure that AF Makerah was first to the finish while O’Shea had to settle for a forgettable eighth. In the third race over 2,200m, O’Shea onboard AF Kafu came second, three-quarter length behind winner Hazeme rid-den by Richard Mullen.
In the fourth race, owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda completed a hat-trick for the evening but not with O’Shea as he again ended up choosing the wrong one — AF La’Asae and finished a disappointing last. Stablemate AF Yatroq ridden by Brett Doyle ended up winning by a length.
Speaking on the choices O’Shea made, trainer Oertel said: “O’Shea said, ‘please run him (AF Yatroq) at Al Ain, I’m sure he can win and he just hated the sand and he came back to the grass and won. It was very tough today. Six horses and you flip a coin to see which one. You gallop them at home and one is better today and next day other one is better. He had a tough choice, he made it right one time and Inshallah, it will happen for him next time.”
In the penultimate race of the evening for Private Owners, O’Shea on board AF Noqoush, finished eighth for Oertel as Nawwaf Kb was led to victory by Patrick Cosgrave for trainer Helal Al Alawi. In the concluding handicap for thoroughbreds for Satish Seemar’s King’s Shadow, however, O’Shea failed to finish on a strong note.