THE Dubai World Cup Night has become a hugely significant event on the international racing calendar and takes place tomorrow at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.
Following the thrills and spills of Cheltenham, the focus shifts to this spectacular venue where the jaw-dropping prize money attracts the best horses from around the world of flat racing.
Dromahane native and 10-time champion jockey Tadgh O’Shea has enjoyed massive success in Dubai with over 700 career victories which makes him the leading rider in the United Arab Emirates. The racing calendar has changed massively in the last 20 years with the eyes of the racing world firmly fixed on Meydan this weekend.
"Everyone is buzzing out here and the big yards from all over the world will be represented on Saturday. The big race has an overall prize fund of $12 million with $7 million going to the winner.
"Of course, everyone wants to win on World Cup night, so the racing is so competitive. I’ve been lucky to ride over 700 winners here and that milestone was reached on a horse called Switzerland who is very dear to me as we won a race on World Cup night last year. It was a Group 1 victory which made it very special.
"I’m not finished yet and to be leading rider in the United Arab Emirates is something I am very proud of."
O’Shea has been based in Dubai every winter, having first arrived in 2001, after winning the first of two champion apprentice titles in Ireland. He grasped his opportunity realising that Dubai has going to be a global base for the sport. The world of flat racing is ultra-competitive here and his fascinating journey from north Cork to the most spectacular race tracks in the world has been an easy transition for this supremely talented rider who is enjoying another brilliant season.
"There is always a massive build-up to Dubai World Cup night as all the international horses start to arrive. It has evolved into such a global event with horses travelling from all over the world to compete here.
"Being from Dromahane, racing was always going to be an attraction growing up. I started off with Kevin Willis and Kieran Barrett messing around with ponies locally and on the Hunting fields.
"When I was doing my Junior Cert an opportunity arose to attend the Race Academy for a two-week trial. At the time I begged my parents to let me go and thankfully they agreed. I was then called back to complete an 11-month course and I ended up going to Michael Halford to serve my apprentice at his yard.
"Everything went really well and I received a brilliant grounding on the Curragh. I was lucky enough to be Champion Apprentice twice and this certainly opened plenty of doors and opportunities. I was made aware by Michael Halford that whoever was Champion Apprentice in 2001 would win a scholarship to Dubai. Sheikh Hamdan sponsored that scholarship for the leading apprentice, so I’m very thankful to him as that opened the door for me.
"Otherwise I might have just stayed in Ireland. So that’s how it all started and even though I rode for Michael Halford for about seven years I always went out to Dubai every winter."
Looking ahead to the big night winners will be hard to come by which is the currency of every jockey. This is the end-of-season climax so everything has been geared towards this magnificent show on turf at Meydan.
"I have a nice book of rides but these are all Group races which makes it very tough. Switzerland goes again this year to defend his crown after last year’s victory. On World Cup night a winner is so special so I would be over the moon to reach the winners podium. It’s a very busy time when we are racing but I get to recharge the batteries in the summer.
"Dubai is home now but I like to get back to Ireland for a couple of months in the summer. I have a couple of broodmares and some foals and yearlings coming along at Debbie’s father’s stud in county Wexford."