Al Nabooda and O’Shea secure further United Arab Emirates titles in the PA sector


Al Nabooda and O’Shea secure further United Arab Emirates titles in the PA sector

The outcome of the owners and jockeys’ championships has been a foregone conclusion for a while, as Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and Tadgh O’Shea respectively maintained their positions as the dominant forces of PA racing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, the trainers’ championship has proved to be an ongoing tussle between two past champions, Doug Watson and Ernst Oertel. So the season’s finale at Al Ain on April 9th proved decisive as Oertel was unable to overhaul Watson, and this enabled the latter to take the honours by a single win.

The UAE is unusual in that no distinction is made between the PA horses and English thoroughbreds when it comes to deciding titles, which makes the achievements of messieurs Al Nabooda, Oertel and O’Shea all the more laudable. It also highlights the importance of PA racing in securing those titles, as Al Nabooda and Oertel have been the long term dominant forces in this sphere. 

It has been another hugely successful season for Khalid Khalifa Al Al Nabooda team, as he secured his fourth owners’ title in five years, having notched 39 winners. That is respectively 12 and 15 more than Godolphin and Al Adjban Stables. He gained the bulk of his wins with UAE-breds, and it’s worth remembering that the Emirates were once considered an unsuitable environment for breeding racehorses, and so this achievement gains added kudos because of this. Khalid Khalifa Al Al Nabooda received his trophy during the final meeting of the season at Meydan on April 8th. He dedicated his success to the late UAE Minister of Finance, and Deputy Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He said: "Sheikh Hamdan did a lot for UAE racing and was a massive supporter of PA breeding. Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, too, is a massive supporter of the PA horse in the UAE and around the world. This victory is dedicated to them and the whole team that works behind the scenes: the trainer, the jockeys and the stable staff."

As in previous seasons, his best horse proved to be the 6-year-old AF Alwajel (AF Al Buraq). Never out of the first three in all his six Group PA attempts, he won the H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan National Day Cup (Gr3 PA) and the Al Ruwais (Gr3 PA). Both were run at Abu Dhabi. He looked on course to end the season on a high in the Dubai Kahayla Classic (Gr 1 PA) – only for Deryan (Mahabb) to take his measure in the final 200m. However he has proved to be more than just a mere sprinter, and his next campaign will be geared towards the latter race.

Also key to the team’s success was Tadgh O’Shea. He collected his ninth jockeys’ championship, having surpassed Ted Durcan’s previous record (seven wins) in 2020. He also reached the milestone of 600 UAE winners this season, and he is by a long chalk the most successful rider to have ridden in the Emirates. Riding a double on Abu Dhabi’s final meeting of the season on April 4th, it was fitting that AF Alajaj (AF Albahar), representing the Al Nabooda and Oertel tandem, should provide him with his landmark win. His 47 winners for the season also included Secret Ambition (Exceed and Excel) in the Godolphin Mile on the Dubai World Cup card. He said: "Six hundred, that’s amazing. I always maintain that my job, which entails riding the horse on the racecourse, is the easiest part of it. As it’s the teams behind the scenes which do all the hard work."

Ernest Oertel narrowly missed out on a fourth trainers’ title. This was confirmed after Doug Watson inched ahead after the fifth race on the Al Ain card. The latter, whose Red Stables string consists predominantly of English thoroughbreds, does have a handful of PA runners. Furthermore, the PA horse Sauteurnes Al Maury (Mahabb) contributed to his winning haul. Watson is currently the most successful trainer in the UAE, as his seventh championship has seen him leapfrog over Satish Seemar (six titles).

Doug Watson said: "We have a great team of owners and staff. They’ve been fantastic. Everyone works seven days a week. We’ve come through the Covid situation. Thankfully, everyone is okay and things have gone well since. However, it was difficult at times."

The leading horse, in terms of prize money won, was the H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown winner Messi (Dahess). Although domestically this accolade went to the quadruple winner Somoud (Munjiz), trained by Jean de Roüalle for YAS Racing. Racing exclusively at Abu Dhabi, it was ironic that his sole defeat was recorded in Abu Dhabi’s biggest prize. However he still managed two Gr1 PA victories, including consecutive wins in the Emirates Championship over 2,200m (11f). By Munjiz (Kesberoy), his dam, Wadya, (Akbar) was a debut winner in France. She won a further four races in the UAE, all over 2,200m (11f), at Abu Dhabi.

The leading UAE sire (races won) was AF Al Buraq (Amer) as he annexed a fourth title. Bred by Al Nabooda, he only raced once, finishing third in the Abu Dhabi Classic over a mile. He has been available to European breeders for the last three seasons, having stood at the Haras de Saint-Faust under the Shadwell banner. He has since relocated to Shadwell’s UK Arabian division (Nunnery Stud) at Thetford, Norfolk, for the 2021 covering season.