x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ajtebi keen for more success at Breeders' Cup

The Emirati jockey believes that winning last year's Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile in Santa Anita, California was just the tonic his career needed.

Ahmed Ajtebi says that compared to England, riding in America or Dubai is easier.
Ahmed Ajtebi says that compared to England, riding in America or Dubai is easier.

Ahmed Ajtebi believes that winning last year's Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile in Santa Anita, California was just the tonic his career needed.

The 28-year-old Emirati rode Godolphin's Vale Of York to victory in the Group 1 contest 12 months ago, and is gearing up to win the same race this evening aboard Biondetti at the Breeders' Cup in Louisville, Kentucky.

"I've won Group 1's in Europe and Dubai, but to be honest, winning at the Breeders' Cup last year opened a lot of doors for me; it helped my career greatly," Ajtebi said.

"After the Breeders' Cup last year I went to Dubai for two weeks, but Eoin Harty sent for me and I went to work for him in California for six weeks before the Dubai Carnival.

"I had other trainers call me up for my services, which was very flattering."

Ajtebi shot to prominence when he rode Gladiatorus to win the 2009 Dubai Duty Free at Nad al Sheba. As a nephew of the prominent owner Saeed Manana, he was later admitted to the Godolphin fold and was installed as the stable jockey to the trainer Mahmood al Zarooni in March.

Ajtebi is coming to the end of his fourth season riding in Britain, and it is his best to date in terms of victories, having partnered 23 winners from 174 rides, with the same number of second-placed finishes and 28 thirds.

Ajtebi is clearly not the finished article. But for now he is happy to be matching himself against some of the best jockeys in the world.

"I have to say that compared to England, riding in America or Dubai is a lot easier," Ajtebi said.

"England is the ultimate test for a jockey in my opinion; it is the best place to learn to ride. In America you just need a very good horse and a good draw, but in England you need experience and technique more than anything. They have courses that are left-handed, right-handed, up and down and they race on every surface. If you can ride in England you can ride anywhere. I love competing against the likes of [Keiren] Fallon, [Richard] Hughes and [Frankie] Dettori."

Biondetti forms only a part of Godolphin's challenge at the Breeders' Cup tonight. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor saddles five, with Girolamo in the Sprint the most likely source of joy for the Dubai-based operation.

Biondetti became his sire's first Group 1 winner in October when he won the Gran Criterium at Italy's San Siro. Yet despite the right bloodlines, an inside draw, and proven form at the highest level, Ajtebi is only hopeful that he can account for Uncle Mo, American trainer Todd Pletcher's favourite.

"He's not a very big horse, but I rode him for the last time on Thursday and he loved the dirt. We are drawn in gate one. He's not a fast starter and we'll see how he jumps the gate. I'll have to see how he'll handle the kickback and then we'll go from there."

 

sports@thenational.ae