Tadhg O’Shea marks the beginning of his second year as number two jockey to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum when he takes the mount on Mutafaakir in the opening race at Newmarket this afternoon. It is a partnership that has developed on the back of O’Shea’s success as a teenager in his native Ireland.
There, in both 2000 and 2001 O’Shea was champion apprentice jockey. Part of his prize each year was a four-month scholarship in the United Arab Emirates, sponsored by Sheikh Hamdan. Since then O’Shea has regularly ridden there over the winter. He says, “That (the scholarship) cemented Dubai for me and I’ve gone there every year since. It has been a very good place for me. I wouldn’t swap it for anywhere else.”
In the season that has just finished he rode a total of 37 winners, making him top jockey there for the second time in three years. Even last year he missed out to Wayne Smith by just one winner. O’Shea sees this success as the springboard for his best season in Britain. He’ll be aiming to reach his first half-century of winners, but has other goals in mind as well.
He says, “Above everything else I would love to ride a Group 1 winner for Sheikh Hamdan to repay his loyalty. I am very privileged to be getting up every morning and sitting on these nice horses who are bred to win Classics.”
Although he sits behind new principal jockey Paul Hanagan for the Maktoum team, O’Shea sees only benefits for him in the new partnership. He looks forward to working alongside Hanagan, and reckons that there will be plenty of winners for both of them when they are sporting the blue silks. With such a sizable pool of horses available I’m sure he’s right.