DUBAI // Ahmed Ajtebi, the Emirati jockey, enjoyed a perfect UAE National Day at Meydan Racecourse last night by riding the unlikely winner Game Stalker to victory in the Dh70,000 Meydan Golf Course handicap.
"I don't think we could give the country any greater gift than a UAE-trained, ridden and owned victory on National Day," said the jockey, whose mount was a second winner on the night for owner Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed and comes from the high-flying stable of Ali Rashid al Raihe.
Ajtebi returned to the UAE after a European season in which he claimed a fifth career Group One for Godolphin in the Premio Gran Criterium in Italy.
His latest success will be one to savour as Game Stalker, who claimed the victory in a photo finish from Musabah al Muhiari's Tayyab, had been considered an outsider in the build-up to the race.
Yet his trainer had faith in the four-year-old. "Ali just said to me to do what I wanted out there," said Ajtebi who rides for Godolphin during the Dubai International Racing Carnival.
"The horse has been working well at home but had been beaten in his last few races. Ali was joking with me and told me to use all my experience tonight, even my experience of riding camels, to see if we could find the key to the horse."
Whether it was the camel experience that made the difference to Game Stalker, Ajtebi does not know, although he does concede that every jockey needs luck in running.
"I work very hard but I also feel I am a lucky jockey," he said. "I won on Dubai World Cup night and at the Breeders' Cup while I was still an apprentice.
"This season I won on my first race day back in the UAE and now I win on UAE National Day."
Meanwhile Tadhg O'Shea also had a good night, extending his unbeaten partnership with Purebred Arabian, AF Alghabra to five in the opening race.
O'Shea has never lost a contest on the UAE-bred filly.
Gillian Duffield, her trainer, said she did well to win given the 58kgs she was carrying - the second-heaviest weight in the race.
"It was a lot of weight for a filly," Duffield said, "but she is all heart."
AF Alghabra is a victim of her own success, having now won five of her eight starts. Duffield must wait and see what the handicapper will do before she considers her next move.
Al Muhairi claimed a double with wins from Maath Gool and Always Emirates in the second and fourth races, while leading handler Seemar remained one ahead of al Raihe when Montmorency won the fifth.
The new trainer Stephane Chevalier opened his seasonal account with Lando Junior in the last.