A March 29, 2008 file photo of Jockey Tadhg O'Shea riding Mizzna getting past Richard Hills riding Madjani to win the Dubai Kahayla Classic race sponsored by Emaar at Nad Al Sheba course in Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: This season’s UAE champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea is gutted to be missing his first Dubai World Cup night in 13 years this Saturday after being handed a two-day suspension for drifting.

The record six-time UAE champion jockey was handed the ban after a race in Abu Dhabi on March 17, making it an unlucky St Patrick’s Day for the 36-year-old Irishman, who rides for President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s Al Asayl Stables in Abu Dhabi under trainer Eric Lemartinel.

“It’s hugely disappointing from a personal point of view,” said the winner of 42 races from 331 runners this season, earning Dh4,965,186.

“We start work here from November 1 and work all the way through the winter for one of the biggest nights of racing in the world — so to not participate is a huge blow.

“Out of every negative you can take a positive however, at least I’m not riding through suspension, it would be worse if it was through injury.

“If it was a one-day suspension I could have got it moved to a different race meeting, but two-day rules state you can’t get it shifted.

“Rules are there and my filly came off a straight line, it was unfortunate it was so close to the line, another two strides and the race was over, so from that point of view it was disappointing, but as the mantra goes, I’ve done the crime so have to do the time.”

O’Shea first came to Dubai in 2001 thanks to an initiative by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, who sponsored a four-month trip to the UAE for whoever won the Irish apprentice jockey championship. O’Shea did that twice in 2001 and 2002. He went on to win the UAE jockey’s championship in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and now 2018, participating in every World Cup night since 2006.

“It goes without saying that I’d love to be riding there,” he said of this year’s event. “But as I’ve said I have broken the rules and have to sit it out, it’s disappointing but I’ve just got to get on with it now, it’s a fantastic night of racing, so I’ve just got to enjoy it as a spectator.”

O’Shea boasts one win from a total 29 runners on Dubai World Cup night, triumphing on Mizzna in the Kahayla Classic in 2008.

“I was fortunate to win the Kahayla, but I had a few near misses too finishing second on both Charh in the 2007 Kahayla Classic and Green Coast in the 2010 Godolphin Mile. I’ve had some great nights there and memorable ones, but Mizzna is most fresh in the mind because she won.”

This year too, he felt sure he could have added to his tally.

“I would have definitely have ridden Mawahib in the Kahayla Classic and Justin Bryne from the EERC had told me I would have ridden his horse [Shamaal Nibras] in the Godolphin Mile, so it looked like I would have had two rides.

“The Arabian would have definitely had a strong chance and you know how competitive it is, there’s no room for error, but I’d have gone there with two hopeful rides.”