Ahmed Ajtebi will be reunited with the horse he teamed up with to record the career-defining victory on Dubai World Cup night when he lines up for the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot today in the blue of Godolphin. Riding the celebrated Gladiatorus - officially considered the best race horse in the world - the 27-year-old Ajtebi is hoping to continue his perfect record at Ascot. Last year he boasted a 100 per cent success rate, recording one win from one ride by riding Regal Parade to victory in the Buckingham Palace Stakes.
That triumph announced his arrival to the international racing community and made him the first Emirati to win a race at the Royal meet. But the 5ft 3in jockey followed up that success on home soil this season with an audacious win on Gladiatorus in the US$5million (Dh18,351m) Dubai Duty Free. He lead from the front and never look like losing, beating recent Audemars Piguet QE II Cup-winner and Singapore Airlines runner-up, Presvis, by a clear three-and-a-half lengths to confirm his class.
Less than 45 minutes later, Ajtebi did it again, this time on Eastern Anthem in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic by the smallest of margins. Trained at the time by Mubarak bin Shafya, Gladiatorus and Eastern Anthem now run for the Godolphin racing operation owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Unbeaten this season, Gladiatorus contests the mile alongside stablemate Alexandros, ridden by Frankie Dettori, while Ajtebi takes rides Eastern Anthem for the boys in blue in the Ascot Gold Cup on Thursday where he will attempt to do better than his disappointing sixth out of eight in the Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom.
A glance at the form guide suggests Gladiatorus is correctly installed as the favourite as he has already beaten a number of his Queen Anne Stakes rivals. Alexandros trailed him by five lengths when they met in the Dubai Duty Free and Paco Boy, trained by Richard Hannon was more than nine lengths behind the winner. So the gelded son of Silic is in with a genuine chance of scoring a fourth consecutive win but Ajtebi confesses to one major concern ahead of the race.
The now demolished Nad Al Sheba track, with its gentle bend and consistent surface, was a perfectly suited to Gladiatorus' uncompromising front-running style, but at Ascot the mile track is uncharterd territory for the horse. "The mile race at Ascot is run on a straight track and I'm just a bit worried about that because he's always run around a bend before," explained Ajtebi from his summer-base in England.
"He beat stronger horses than this Ascot opposition in Dubai and Italy when he raced there, but I just have one question mark about this track." Respected as a good judge of pace after winning those two contrasting races on Dubai World Cup night, Ajtebi nevertheless faces his sternest test of race tactics today but the fact that Godolphin gave him the nod on Gladiatorus demonstrates just how highly they rate him.
The Emirati hopes to encourage Gladiatorus to stick to his familiar dominating style and said he was happy to be given the chance aboard the four-year-old campaigner who has only been beaten three times in 12 starts. "I rode him in the Dubai Duty Free and said at the time that I thought he was the best horse I had ever ridden," said Ajtebi. "When he went to the Godolphin team I saw that they might have a couple of runners in the race and wondered if I might get a ride, so it was great to get the phone call.
"I have one win from one ride at Ascot and obviously I'd love to continue the perfect record but I do worry about the straight mile. It's the only thing that concerns me about this horse, but he is a confident runner." firstname.lastname@example.org