South African Oertel and Corkman O’Shea have raised the bar in the UAE by repeating their 2013 trainer and jockey titles with increased margins in what was nothing short of a stellar season for the pair.
The much-travelled Oertel and his Irish counterpart dominated in the Arabian racing side of their operation, whilst Oertel’s Al Asayl team significantly boosted the number of thoroughbred victories he put on the board at Meydan and Jebel Ali.
With only the glittering World Cup night fixture to come, in which the Oertel/O’Shea combination have high hopes of a frame finish from their standard-bearer Capital Attraction, Johannesburg-born Oertel boasts an impressive 46-winner haul on the circuit comprising Meydan, Jebel Ali, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and the recently-opened Al Ain racecourses.
Reflecting on his first year with four-times UAE champion jockey O’Shea as his righthand man, Oertel said: “I’ve managed to improve some of the horses that came to me from the UK – Capital Attraction and Ganas were my best thoroughbreds.
“Capital Attraction started on 87 and we got him to a 115 rating, Ganas went from a similar opening mark to 116 and Averroes was 87 when we got him and progressed to a 117 rating.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from improving horses that come to me that have been in training in the UK, like those four-year-olds that arrive for what is effectively a second career.
“When I heard that Tadhg was moving (from second jockey to Sheikh Hamdan) to ride for Jimmy Long, I regarded it as an opportunity to link up with the champion jockey in Dubai.
“I think Tadhg has proved that with his fourth jockeys’ title in succession.”
Although he lived in his homeland until his late teens, doing his two-year National Service in the army and initially helping to run the Oldlands Stud. Oertel’s career has blossomed on foreign shores, first in the Headquarters of racing at Newmarket.
He continued: “The owner of the stud, Mrs Sanne, encouraged me to go to England and I got a job at Eve Lodge when Lester Piggott started training, and when he went to prison I carried on assisting Susan when she had the licence.
“Then I started trying Arabian horses at Carriage Way Stables, formerly owned by Bill and Linda Stubbs.
“I also took over from Andrew Reid at his Mill Hill yard when he decided to take a break from training. I’ve had about 500 winners combined and this is my third year in Dubai.
“Here I have the best of both worlds with top-class thoroughbreds and Arabians — it’s hard to think of it as a job, it is so enjoyable.
“Obviously I like the big Arab race on World Cup night. I’ve been placed in it a couple of times and would dearly love to win it. I’ve had a fourth in the Dubai Gold Cup with Averroes, and Capital Attraction, who goes for the Godolphin Mile, is an absolute star.
“He may be just below Group Two class but he has the heart of a lion, it was unfortunate that in the same race last year he chipped a joint but he still managed to finish a creditable sixth.
“Capital Attraction’s last run was just brilliant as he headed Variety Club, a 122-rated horse, while the winner of the race was rated 118. It was a decent performance by my horse and I think he has a live chance on Saturday.”
On the other side of the UAE racing spectrum, Oertel has continued to impress. He said: “I have three very useful Arabians. Scoop won three last year and was placed a couple of times, being unlucky in running in a top-class Arab race.
“Tadhg rides Shayel who is top class and finished second in the Maktoum Challenge and fourth in another. She will give a good account at the weekend. Richlore was second in a Group One at Abu Dhabi last week and over 2,200 metres will stay the trip as they tend to go too fast.”
On the subject of O’Shea, Oertel realises he has at his fingertips the services of one of the sport’s most astute riders and a man with extensive experience of UAE racing under both codes.
He said: “I feel lucky and privileged to have Tadhg as our stable jockey.
“He’s a thinking jockey, and as much a part of the team as anyone. We ask his opinion and in my view I’m sure he is the type of guy who would be just as good a part of any team.
“I made a conscious decision that when Tadhg and I started together we would end up champion trainer and jockey in the UAE. We got in the groove and although behind our target at one time have now accounted for 46 winners.
“We are trying to build on the thoroughbred side and Isabelle Peter-Hoblyn and Robert Brown buy the horses between them.”
From his side of what is proving a lucrative fence, O’Shea put forward a glowing appraisal of Oertel, saying: “Until this season I had never ridden a horse for Ernst. When we teamed up we hit the ground running and haven’t looked back, growing better as a team.
“Going forward we have some lovely young horses, and having won the championship by a single winner last year that gap has increased to 11 in 2014, proof positive that we have upped our game.”