All too soon, we’ve reached the pointy end of the UAE season. It’s far from over, as a three-way battle for the Trainers’ Championship will be played out over the final three meetings, but the big stuff is done. So, time for my unofficial end-of-season awards.
Horse of the Year
He didn’t win the Dubai World Cup, but Algiers is still the star of the season. Trained by Simon and Ed Crisford, he hacked up in the first two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge and was probably only undone by chasing a fast early pace when second in the big one. Hopefully, he’ll keep flying the UAE flag with a run at the Breeders’ Cup in the plans.
Jockey of the Year
No surprises here. It goes to Tadhg O’Shea who cruised to an amazing 11th UAE Jockeys’ Championship despite a tough year personally, due to the passing away of his mother. O’Shea’s hunger for winners remains as strong as ever and he’ll already be thinking about title number 12.
Emerging Star Award
This is a tie, between Panamanian rider Oscar Chavez, who cemented an excellent season with G1 Dubai Kahayla Classic victory on Hayyan, and Nisren Maghoub. Emerging from the shadow of trainer husband Mohammed Daggash, Nisren had eight winners in an outstanding first campaign with her own license. Chavez, meanwhile, is no newcomer, having ridden for two decades in Singapore, but thrived from his new base with Doug Watson, riding 16 winners at the time of writing.
The ‘Confidence Pays Off’ Award
Congratulations to Michael Costa, who predicted great things for Jebel Ali Stables when he took over last summer and achieved them. The Aussie saddled 14 winners from just 93 runners, and managed a Stakes win and DWC night runner with Mouheeb. An excellent start, by anyone’s standards, and it might even have been better if talented 3-year-old Seyouff hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury. He’ll be back next season, as will Costa, who will spend part of the summer recruiting horses in the UK and America.
The One to Watch Award
Saeed Bin Suroor had a low season, by his own high standards, but Mawj was the shining light, proving that she stays a mile with a scintillating win in the Jumeirah Fillies’ Guineas. She could make a splash in a European Guineas this year, too, with the English and French versions up for discussion.
The ‘So Close’ Award
It is to be hoped that the connections of Aegean Finale return for another Dubai World Cup Carnival as the gelding has unfinished business in Dubai, coming a close second on two of his three runs. He heads back to Turkey with plenty of prize money, however, and should make an impact in some big races back home this summer.
‘Wow’ Moment of the Year
This has to go to Equinox, who produced a spellbinding moment when beating eight other Group 1 winners and taking the G1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic on the bridle. He is the best turf horse in the world right now and it’s fascinating to see if this can propel him to further international success, possibly in November’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.