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‘Jockeys’ – UAE Style

Beyond Well Armed’s record-breaking winning margin in the main race, the other big story from Dubai World Cup day was that of young local jockey Ahmed Ajtebi who won the Dubai Duty Free with longshot Gladiatorus and followed up with Eastern Anthem’s narrow victory in the Dubai Sheema Classic.

While much has been made of the apprentice’s past as a former camel jockey (at least from ages six through fourteen), it’s not quite an overnight rags-to-riches story. Ajtebi hails from a wealthy family and was personally selected by Sheikh Mohammed to train to become a top jockey:

[Trainer John] Sadler was used to apprentices arriving with their parents or by public transport on their first day of work.

But in 2003, when Sadler was training in Dubai, he received a directive from Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum that he was to take on a local apprentice, Ahmed Ajtebi.

“When this young bloke arrived he pulled up in the carpark in the latest Mercedes sports and presented himself as my new stable apprentice,” he said.

“His work ethic was good but where the difference lay was that, for the first time, Sheikh Mohammed was making sure that the locals were being involved in the racing business. A lot of the hands-on labour is done by people from Third World countries and those like myself, from Australia, are brought in to direct them, but there is no involvement with the locals.

“But with Ahmed, despite his wealthy background he worked terribly hard to be successful. I think he had some time riding camels before I’d met him,” Sadler said.

Since those early days, Ajtebi has demonstrated that he has an obvious talent for the sport; he’s ridden and won in South Africa, Australia and England (although his success there was cut short by problems with his visa), as well as several other countries. As Godolphin’s rumored number-two jockey (behind Frankie Dettori), one imagines those difficulties will be smoothed out in the future. But Ajtebi clearly knows that he was placed in a prime position:

“He [Sheikh Mohammed] pushed me,” Ajtebi said. “He said that the UAE had horses in training every­where in the world, but Dubai had no jockey. I told him that I had never ridden a horse in my life, but I would try. I see myself as an ambassador for the UAE. I am representing my country when I compete.”

It will be interesting to see if he is chosen to ride either Regal Ransom or Desert Party, should both horses make it to the Kentucky Derby.

2 comments to ‘Jockeys’ – UAE Style

  • Golden Slipper Weekend Tipper

    …Will be very interesting, not least because nobody i entirely sure which if the horses is seen as the favourite, and best hope for the Derby.

    I hope this lad comes good in the big big races. It may not be rags-to-riches but it is still a fantastic story, and he seems like a genuine and nice guy.

  • Anonymous

    Move over Frankie, there’s a new kid in town.

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