Feature Story

Spectacular Dubai World Cup success sees unstoppable Seemar and O’shea shine

Spectacular Dubai World Cup success sees unstoppable Seemar and O’shea shine Mar 30, 2024

By Sam Turner -  

Trainer Bhupat Seemar and Tadgh O’Shea claimed the biggest success of their respective careers as Laurel River spreadeagled his rivals to capture a breathtaking Dubai World Cup triumph. On a truly international evening which saw no less than eight different countries enjoy success on one of the world’s premier equine stages, victory for the Juddmonte owned six-year-old was a fitting finale to a terrific card which also saw Seemar complete a double following the comprehensive victory of Tuz in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen.

While his stablemate made short work of his rivals in the 1200m dirt sprint with a smooth rail run under O’Shea, Laurel River appeared to have a stiffer task from a wide gate in the night’s main event. However, trainer and jockey were determined to remain positive, with their game plan to go forward undeterred despite being allotted stall 12 at Wednesday’s post position draw. And go forward they did. Smartly away, O’Shea soon captured the lead and regular Meydan devotees will know how dangerous the multiple champion jockey can be when allowed to dominate proceedings. Allowed to find a beautiful rhythm, Laurel River floated along the back stretch as the race took a familiar shape with old adversaries Ushba Tesoro and Senor Buscador held up in rear, craving a late pace collapse, the like of which they saw in the Saudi Cup.

Defunded momentarily moved onto the heels of the Juddmonte pacesetter at halfway, but that pace pressure swiftly took its toll as oneby- one the leader’s rivals dropped by the wayside and came off the bridle. Pre-race favourite Kabirkhan had looked to be in the perfect position to stalk the early speed, but the unrelenting gallop set at the head of affairs by O’Shea on the former Bob Baffert trainee left the Kazakh-owned son of California Chrome wilting as the runners turned out of the back straight. Laurel River was then heading into unknown territory as he turned for home, but his rider’s determination to ride him as if he was a confirmed stayer was born out as he swiftly stretched further and further clear in the straight, allowing his jubilant rider to accept the cheers of the crowd as he strolled to an eight-and-a-half length success.

Last year’s winner Ushba Tesoro was carried out on his shield in second, while his Riyadh conqueror Senor Buscador took third. A delighted Seemar, who joined Michael Costa at the top of the trainer’s championship on 36 winners going into the final week of the season, 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 the Al Shindagha).

“Tadhg was able to get some easy fractions and then I saw Defunded coming on his outside but he just kept on going further clear. 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.”

When Arrogate overcame a world of trouble to win the 2017 Dubai World Cup, many racing fans said it was the best performance in the history of the race, and in a broader sense, one of the best performances ever seen. Seemar and Juddmonte Farms, the same operation that campaigned Arrogate, rerouted the six-year-old to the Dubai World Cup instead: a contest 12 times as valuable, but incrementally more challenging on a few levels, not least the 2000m distance of the race. For O’Shea, the support of his stable and Juddmonte, gave him the confidence to carry out his gameplan.

He said: “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, they could use anyone and they’re a worldwide operation that’s really successful. “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.”

Another prominent local hope and strong fancy, Kabirkhan, failed to fire with rider Pat Dobbs accepting the situation some way from home. “He was beaten a long way out. I knew leaving the back straight he wasn’t the same horse as before,” said Dobbs. Yuga Kawada, rider of last year’s winner Ushba Tesoro, was already eyeing future targets after steering the defending champion into an honourable second. He said: “He was in good form and he ran his race. It was a good run.

We managed to beat Senor Buscador today but the winner was too fast and stayed really well in front. We will be prepared for the Breeders’ Cup and I believe Del Mar will suit him better than Santa Anita.” Todd Fincher, trainer of Saudi Cup winner and third home, Senor Buscador said: “He brings it every time, he ran a really good race. He might have started his run a little early trying to catch Laurel River and maybe that cost us a placing. Hats off to Laurel River, he freaked on everybody there. “We were hoping there would be a little pace in there, but Laurel River is a nice horse and you’re not going to catch a horse like that if he gets loose. That’s what we’re up against, he’s got to have some pace to run at. It’s very rare in a Grade 1 race that there’s no pace, but we are very proud of him.”