DUBAI: After a break in 2020 enforced by COVID-19, the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup returned on Saturday when the team of all-female riders scored a third victory in the world’s premier international jockeys’ challenge in front of one of Ascot’s biggest crowds since the pandemic began.
A double on the day for Nicola Currie ensured a clean sweep for the Ladies team with the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup debutante taking both the Silver Saddle and the Dubai Duty Free Ride of the Day, presented this year in memory of the late Joe Mercer.
“We are delighted to once again support the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup, which has maintained its position as Ascot’s best-attended fixture outside of the Royal meeting,” said Dubai Duty Free’s executive vice chairman and CEO, Colm McLoughlin. “The competitive spirit in which the event is played out embodies what British racing’s only team event is all about and we congratulate Hayley Turner, Nicola Currie and Mickaelle Michele on their success.”
Danish-born Kevin Stott put the first points on the leader board for the Rest of the World team when he partnered Tis Marvellous’ victory in the opening Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Dash.
Stott’s mount held on by a whisker from Great Britain’s James Doyle and Desert Safari, to the delight of winning trainer Clive Cox who said, “We’ve been lucky at this meeting, it’s a fun day, the owners love it, good prize money, what’s not to like?“
In the second of the day’s six races the Ladies declared their intent when Nicola Currie and teammate Mickaelle Michel from France, both former champion apprentices in their respective countries, produced a finish almost identical to that of the opening event. The camera separated Just Hubert and Call My Bluff by a short head.
“There’s a great buzz in the weighing room,” said Currie. “Just Hubert is a bit of a lad but he just pricked his ears the whole way round, enjoying himself as much as I did.”
After two races James Doyle led the challenge for the Alistair Haggas Silver Saddle, awarded to the rider amassing the most individual points on the day, with his consistent placings that helped take Great Britain into the team lead.
After the third race, the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Challenge, the competition began to take a more definite shape. The Ladies confirmed their place at the head of the table, as did Nicola Currie in the individual event. She rode another fantastic race, on HMS President, and though she had to be content with second placing to Graphite, ridden by Team Ireland’s David Egan, she grabbed a lead that was maintained for the remainder of the contest.
“We needed those points,” said Egan who, like Currie and Stott, was riding his first Shergar Cup winner. He too was champion apprentice, and his career has taken off with victory in the world’s richest race, the Saudi Cup and, on the same horse Mishrif, the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night.
The Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Mile was fourth up on the glittering card.
Until then, the finishes had been notably close, emphasising how competitive the Shergar Cup competition is, but here Dashing Roger pulled clear of his field for a decisive Great British victory under Cieren Fallon, also making his Shergar Cup debut.
The son of six-time champion jockey Kieren Fallon, Cieren is one of a host of talented young shooting stars. “It’s all about great horses and great crowds,” he said. “And we’ve got both here.”
Thanks to Fallon, Great Britain now led by four points from the Rest of the World. And though Nicola Currie was still at the top of the individual standings, Sean Levey, James Doyle and David Egan were in hot pursuit.
The penultimate Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Classic, over the classic distance of a mile and a half, saw Hayley Turner without a mount, virtually ending her hopes of a third successive Silver Saddle. But she was cheering loudest when team-mate Nicola Curie added to the Ladies’ points total on the aptly named State of Bliss, putting her team in pole position, five points ahead of Great Britain entering the final contest, the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Sprint over six furlongs.
In what was a thrilling finale, Ireland landed a 1-2-4 to score 30 points and jump from fourth to second in the overall standings, three points behind the victorious Ladies team.
A new trophy will be commissioned for next year’s Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup event after Ladies team captain, Hayley Turner, who took her individual points total in 14 appearances to a remarkable 300, was presented with the team trophy to keep in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the event.
Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup — final standings:
Alistair Haggis “Silver Saddle” Trophy — final standings:
Nicola Currie LADIES 47
David Egan IRE 29
James Doyle GB 27
Cieren Fallon GB 27
Joe Fanning IRE 27
Sean Levey ROW 21
Andrea Atzeni ROW 17
Kevin Stott ROW 15
Mickaelle Michel LADIES 15
Adam Kirby GB 10
Tadhg O’Shea IRE 10
Hayley Turner LADIES 7