TADHG O’Shea capped his long and successful career with a dream-like win in the $12 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan last Saturday.

The 42-year-old jockey from Dromahane in Co Cork has been based in the United Arab Emirates for over 20 years and is on track to be champion jockey in the region for a 12th time this season.

However, big race opportunities have been scarce for O’Shea, who only rode his first Group 1 winner on this night two years ago aboard Switzerland for local trainer Bhupat Seemar, with whom he is based.

This season Seemar – the reigning champion trainer in the Emirates - took charge of Laurel River, a six-year-old entire by Into Mischief and a Grade 2 winner at Del Mar two years ago for trainer Bob Baffert and owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms.

Juddmonte still owns Laurel River and allowed O’Shea to keep the ride on the horse, even after a ring-rusty performance by the US import on his Dubai debut over six furlongs in January.

A step up to a mile in February brought about huge improvement, the horse scoring by almost seven lengths in Group 3 company. The Group 2 Godolphin Mile seemed the logical target for Laurel River but connections decided to roll the dice and go for the Dubai World Cup, his first try at 10 furlongs.

With a doubt over his stamina, a draw in the outside stall of 12 looked a further blow to his chances but the horse had been working very well at home and O’Shea was determined to get to the front if possible and ride Laurel River as if he was a certain stayer.

Rated a 17/2 chance in the international markets, Laurel River was in front after a furlong and surged clear at halfway. He was still travelling well turning into the straight when he was approximately 10 lengths clear of his struggling rivals.

O’Shea began to push under two furlongs out and the response was generous. Only one crack of the whip was administered and Laurel River was not extended to win by over eight lengths from last year’s winner Ushba Tesoro. Recent Saudi Cup winner Senor Buscador finished third, giving the form a solid look.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have had Dubai World Cup night winners but you don’t get many opportunities and I’m going to be forever grateful to Juddmonte for keeping me on the horse,” O’Shea beamed. “They could use anyone and they’re a worldwide operation that’s really successful.”

Of Laurel River, the jockey added: “When he had his first run for the stable we thought he’d disappointed, but we never lost faith. He was explosive last time and I said the other morning to Bhupat, I pulled him aside and said I’d never ridden a horse with his ability ever. And he’d just done an easy work on his own.

“With the dirt you can’t be half-hearted, you have to go forward. If he didn’t stay, he didn’t stay. We were aware of that. The main thing that won the race, it’s easy to say when you win, but I was able to keep filling him up and filling him up.”

O’Shea was joined on the winner’s podium by his wife Debbie and their sons Daragh (12) and Aaron (10).

Seemar said: “I’m still coming to terms with what’s happened. I think it’ll probably sink in in another day or two. It’s absolutely amazing. Tadhg said this morning ‘we’re drawn 12, I’m not going to be two-minded about it, I’m going to go forward.’

“He’s got so much natural pace. He comes out of the gate and this is why we ran him over six furlongs (in January).

“Tadhg was able to get some easy fractions. I expected to see all the closers flying at him but he kept going.

“I was a small kid when I was watching these colours winning some of the biggest races in the world. What the late Prince Khalid Abdullah has done for racing is amazing, I couldn’t believe I was going to be training the horse for that farm and in those colours. And now to win one of the world’s great races for them is unbelievable.”

Golden Shaheen

Earlier on the card O’Shea and Seemar landed the $2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaneen with Tuz, a seven-year-old American-bred who began his career in Russia but has become a Meydan specialist.

Bought for just $7,000 as a yearling at Keeneland, Tuz (by Oxbow, sire of Hot Rod Charlie) was making his fourth straight appearance on the big night, having run unplaced in the Godolphin Mile in 2021 and 2022 and finished seventh in last year’s Golden Shaheen.

O’Shea also adopted positive tactics in this race, duelling with Japan’s Don Frankie before bursting clear in the final furlong to win by over six lengths. Nakatomi, trained by Wesley Ward and ridden by Jamie Spencer, caught the eye running on for third.