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AF Maher, ridden by jockey Tadhg O Shea and trained by Ernst Oertel, after winning the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan in Dubai earlier this year. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Seven-time UAE champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea said he was looking forward to heading into unknown territory when he makes his long-overdue debut in Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup, the world’s most famous international jockeys’ competition that takes place at Ascot Racecourse in the United Kingdom.

The 37-year-old Irishman, who won a seventh jockeys’ title in the UAE in March, will captain the Great Britain and Ireland team that triumphed in 2017.

O’Shea’s teammates are Scottish rider Danny Tudhope and Jamie Spencer, a former champion jockey in both his native Ireland and Britain.

O’Shea is no stranger to success at Ascot, having ridden Quqba to victory in the the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2009.

I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously it’s my first time participating. I’m hoping for some good rides on some good horses.

- Tadhg O’Shea » UAE champion jockey

“I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously it’s my first time participating. I’m hoping for some good rides on some good horses,” he said.

“It’s a very new thing to me — teamwork. I’m used to solo competition which is so competitive. The teams are a nice twist, it’s something I’ve never done before.”

The four-team event also features the top riders representing Europe, Rest of the World and The Girls, who lifted the Shergar Cup 12 months ago.

Looking ahead to the competition, O’Shea said: “Everyone’s a threat, they’re all good riders. Each of the teams have a great panel, so I suppose it all depends on the draws.

“I’d say they’re all dangerous. Hopefully we’ll have some luck. It’ll be a good day, I think I’ll enjoy it.”

The format for the competition — first held in 1999 at Goodwood Racecourse, but moved to its current home at Ascot in 2000 — will see riders assigned horses by a draw for the six-race contest.

Britain’s most famous female jockey, Hayley Turner, who will be making her 13th appearance in the event, teams up with this year’s Women Jockeys’ World Cup winner Nanako Fujita and Australian Jamie Kah, in her attempt to retain the Shergar Cup they won for the second time last season.

“We had a really good team last year with Josie (Gordon) and Hollie Doyle,” said Turner. “You are never guaranteed to ride at the meeting as you have to get invited to ride, and I’ve been lucky enough to be asked so many times.

“The nicest part is when you get that call-up. I really can’t wait for it now, as it is something really different and a great day to be a part of.

“It really has become a worldwide event with so many top jockeys taking part and everyone just enjoys the day.”

France’s Classic-winning rider Gerald Mosse leads the European squad, alongside Cristian Demuro and Filip Minarik, while the Rest of the World team is made up of Yuga Kawada, Vincent Ho Chak-Yiu and Mark Zahra.

Riders and teams will compete across six handicap races over different distances. Points will be earned for the highest placing rider, which will add up to a winning score, for both individual and team, prizes.