Dubai: A journey that began in 2001 hit a high note late Friday evening when Tadhg O’Shea, the ever-smiling Irish jockey, claimed his place in the UAE racing history when becoming the most prolific jockey ever to ride in the Emirates.
The formality of surpassing Richard Hills’s record of 504 winners was completed without much of a fuss and fittingly aboard AF La’Assae, one of many Purebred Arabian race horses that have given O’Shea so much of success.
504the number of winners O'Shea has ridden in the UAE since 2001
A bundle of energy, both on and off a racehorse, 37-year-old O’Shea was gracious in his praise for the UAE, a place that he calls home away from the tiny village of Dromahane in County Cork.
“Obviously I am delighted with the achievement and would not have thought it possible when I first arrived here in 2001,” he acknowledged.
“But the UAE has been so special to me. I have so many great friends over here, so many great memories, so many great moments.
6the number of times O'Shea has won the UAE jockey's titles
I have ridden for many great people and am indebted for all their support over the years. I have enjoyed plenty of success here in Abu Dhabi so it’s fitting I broke the record here, on a Purebred Arabian,” he added.
Recalling how coming to the UAE as an apprentice would be a life-changing experience O’Shea paid tribute to Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.
“Shaikh Hamdan sponsored a scholarship here for the leading apprentice, so I’m very thankful as that opened the door for me. Otherwise I might have just stayed in Ireland,” he said.
“My first winner was on a Purebred was for Erwan Charpy, at Jebel Ali.
“When I look back on the 17 winters that I’ve spent riding here in the UAE they have all been very special, because you get to ride such great horses.”
O’Shea’s landmark Arabian Group 1 victory came aboard Mizzna in 2008, however, the lack of a similar success aboard a thoroughbred does not worry him.
“My goal has always been to ride as many winners as possible, that’s what I’m paid to do,” he once said.
“I ride every race the same way, giving one hundred per cent, be it a handicap or a pattern race. The aim has always been to reach the finish line first.”
Having claimed Hills’ record O’Shea is in line to equal Ted Durcan’s record of seven jockey’s championships, should he top the table at the end of the season.
But he has a battle on his hands with friend and rival Richard Mullen matching him win for win.