UAE CHAMPION JOCKEY O’SHEA JOINS JEBEL ALI STABLES
Seven-time UAE champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea (pictured above) will be joining a new team when the new season commences on Thursday at Meydan Racecourse. The fan favourite will start his 2019-20 tenure wearing the predominately yellow silks of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and receiving a leg-up from the master of Jebel Ali Stables, trainer Nicholas Bachalard.
“A lot of illustrious names have ridden in those silks and I feel privileged to have been approached by Nicholas Bachalard and (racing manager) Mohammed Al Shahi and be offered the position,” O’Shea said. “Jebel Ali obviously has some new horses this season, some promising 2-year-olds from American breeze-up sales and some old timers, so it’s a great opportunity. The (new training track) rides really well and it’s a beautiful facility there where they have the options to train on the track or up the hill.
“It’s a new yard and new season for me, my weight is good and I feel
great,” he continued. “I’ve been very lucky to ride for some tremendous
owners and trainers and I approach it without any goals, really. First
and foremost, I want to stay in one piece and then I’d like to ride in
as many races as I can.”
And that he will. In addition to his contracted job with Jebel Ali, he will maintain his notably fruitful relationship with 2018-19 champion owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, whose phenomenal Purebred Arabian operation ended the season with 53 wins—19 more than second-placed Godolphin.
O’Shea exits a seventh championship season in which he won 48 races and earned nearly $2 million in prize money, topped by a brilliant ride on Al Nabooda’s AF Maher (pictured above) in the Group 1 $1 million Dubai Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup day. Said victory was his second DWC night win, having also won the Dubai Kahayla Classic in 2008 with Mizzna.
“While Sheikh Ahmed has the Thoroughbreds, Khalid has Arabians and, touch wood, it hopefully works out well and is going to keep me busy,” he said. “The Arabian is part of Dubai and people of Dubai’s culture. It’s exciting and (Al Nabooda’s trainer) Ernst Oertel likes to keep me fit. The hardest thing with Ernst’s runners is often picking the right one in a race.
“I was told this way back in the beginning and it stuck with me,” he continued. “You ask an Arabian; you don’t tell them. You humour them because they’re very clever and usually more intelligent than the Thoroughbred. You have to get inside their brain and let them feel that they have the upper edge; in a way they’re in control. AF Maher is ultra-straightforward and easy to ride. He’s a kind horse. When we put him on dirt, he showed he’s a true class act and was able to use his huge stride and great will to win.”
In the end, it is easy to see why O’Shea is the most successful UAE jockey of all time. Able to balance being affable and analytical while concurrently relaxed and resilient is a skill set that is, appropriately, both innate and intended. The father of two appears just as focused-yet-self-effacing as always while embarking on a new chapter and season.
“It’s back to zero with a new season starting,” O’Shea concluded. “I’m riding for two very powerful men in Sheikh Ahmed and Khalid and I just want to do them justice and justify their faith in employing me to ride their horses. I cannot thank them enough for their confidence and loyalty.”
DUBAI WORLD CUP THE GOAL FOR MUNTAZAH
One of the top horses in Dubai and arguably one of the best dirt milers in the world, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Muntazah (above) is currently training well toward his 2020 debut for trainer Doug Watson (above, second from right). The imposing son of Dubawi was last seen finishing third as the favourite in the Group 2 $1.5 million Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup day and has once again enjoyed a long summer off the grind of training. Now, back in preparations, he is pointing toward the world’s richest race day.
“You have to look at Muntazah as the best horse in the barn and
hopefully he comes back well this season,” Watson said. “I don’t think
we were quite 100% after winning on Super Saturday and setting a track
record, but he ran great on the night, considering it was just three
weeks after such an effort.
“We’ll look at Round 1 with him and hope that he’s good enough eventually for the (Dubai) World Cup in March,” he continued. “He’s a very nice, very talented horse. We are trying to peak him at the right time this year and keep him in one piece.”
Last season was a breakout one for the homebred, as the 6-year-old won both the Group 3 $200,000 Firebreak Stakes and Group 3 $350,000 Burj Nahaar in February and March, respectively. He ran what many considered the most impressive performance of the 2018-19 season in winning the latter by 10 lengths, defeating defending Godolphin Mile champ Heavy Metal and Grade 2 winner Axelrod, among others, in a course record-crushing time of 1:34.99 (previous standard 1:36 flat).
The Group 2 $350,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 is scheduled over the same 1600m on Jan. 9. He was third in the race last year to North America, two starts after finishing second in the 2018 Godolphin Mile to Heavy Metal.
STARS OF TOMORROW HIGHLIGHT OPENING DAY CARD
With declarations in, UAE racing fans have been offered a first glimpse at the upcoming classic generation in Dubai. A septet of juveniles will compete in the night’s opener, a 1200m dirt maiden feature for 2-year-olds that was won last year by Walking Thunder (pictured above) before he would go on to be one of the top sophomores of the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
A trio from the Fazza Racing Stables of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al
Maktoum and trainer Salem bin Ghadayer were entered on Monday, but only
one declared, Attribution, a dark bay colt by Competitive Edge out of
the Jump Start mare Hey Little Sister. The $180,000 OBS April purchase
has been well-regarded and enters in lieu of two fillies, Down on Da
Bayou and Panoshoshic, whom we could possibly see in the next maiden
event in two weeks.
The deep yards of Doug Watson, Satish Seemar and Ahmad bin Harmash all have one entrant. Bin Harmash won this fixture last year and returns with well-bred Phoenix Ladies contender Mambo Mischief, an OBS April $150,000 son of phenomenal sire Into Mischief out of the Broad Brush mare Darling Mambo, making him a half-brother to multiple stakes-placed sprinter Darling Sky.
Watson-conditioned Cosmo Kramer trialled well last week for Kildare Stud of Frankie O’Connor. Boasting a precocious pedigree, the bay son of Munnings and Puerto Rican champion mare Gabbywitha G (by Trippi). He cost $80,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky July Yearling Sale of 2018.
Seemar’s Barack Beach boasts a speedy pedigree with significant precocity, being by 2-year-old Grade 1 winner Daredevil out of the Storm Cat mare Bluster, whose dam was superb eight-time sprint stakes winner Morris Code (unplaced in G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies). Purchased by Seemar at the Tattersalls Craven Breeze-Up Sale for $178,774, the chestnut colt is owned by new outfit H & B, who had a record of 2-0-1 from just seven starters last season, including the eye-catching Moshaher. The ownership also entered Al Modayar from Grandstand Stables of Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, another son of Competitive Edge, who was purchased at the same sale for $68,759 and is out of the Lion Heart mare Savannah.
Puzzle Elegance, a $51,600 Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale grad, will be the first progeny of promising young stallion Constitution to race in Dubai if he declares for Abu Dhabi Racing and trainer Helal Al Alawi. From the family of Grade 1 winner Bob and John, he is out of the Forestry mare Annie’s Melody.
The remaining declared colt is Jebel Ali-based Laa Baas, who was entered in lieu of his yard-mate Raakezz. From the yard of Nicholas Bachalard, this Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum-owned colt was a $123,767 sale at Tattersalls Craven. It is worth note that the son of Oxbow originally sold for just $15,000 at Keeneland September 2018, implying that the aforementioned April breeze-up must have been quite impressive.
ALMOND EYE RETURNS IN TOUGH TENNO SHO
International darling Almond Eye (above), winner of the Dubai Turf this year in spectacularly crowd-pleasing fashion, returns to the races on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse in Japan, where she will have arguably her toughest test yet in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn). Raced once since she brought the Meydan crowd to merry mayhem, she was an unlucky and close third in the G1 Yasuda Kinen on June 2.
Chief among her rivals is star 3-year-old Saturnalia, who is one of three classic winners to take her on, including Al Ain and Wagnerian. Group 1 winners, including Longines Dubai Sheema Classic-placed Suave Richard, NHK Mile winner Aerolithe, Queen Elizabeth II Cup victor Win Bright and champion Danon Premium, make for what is one of the most complex turf races anywhere in the world so far this year.
The star-studded cast competes for about $3 million and it could be likely to see one or two horses from this race in Dubai in March, as its 2000m trip lends itself to three races on the big night: Dubai World Cup (2000m dirt), Dubai Turf (1800m) and Dubai Sheema Classic (2400m).
Winners to go on to Dubai five months later include Agnes Digital
(6th, 2002 Dubai World Cup), Daiwa Major (3rd, 2007 Dubai Turf), Vodka
(7th, 2009 Dubai Turf), Buena Vista (8th 2011 Dubai World Cup), Just a
Way (1st, 2015 Dubai Turf) and Rey de Oro (6th, 2019 Longines Dubai
Buena Vista, who was also second in the 2010 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, and Eishin Flash (6th, 2012 Dubai World Cup) won the Tenno Sho (Autumn) seven months after competing in Dubai.