x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Better Than Ever just that, says jockey Saimee Jumaat

Singapore's nine-time champion jockey has a special connection to his mount in Saturday's Dh18.3million Dubai Duty Free race.

Saimee Jumaat, Singapore's nine-time champion jockey, has a special connection to his mount in Saturday's US$5 million (Dh18.3m) Dubai Duty Free.

Not only did he name the horse Better Than Ever, but he also rode him to 13 of his 14 victories from 15 starts.

"I was galloping this horse for the first time," Jumaat said. "In Singapore you only need to register the horse before it races so he still didn't have a name.

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"He felt exceptional to me and his owner, who I have been friends with for a long time, asked if I wanted to name him.

"He felt like the best horse I had ridden and so I called him Better Than Ever."

Jumaat was not wrong. Better Than Ever has won over distances ranging from 1,200m to 1,600m, claimed three Singaporean Group 1s and numerous Group 2 and 3s and is still only four years old.

Now he faces his stiffest test in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free, a race which features Godolphin's Arlington Million winner, Debussy, Mike de Kock's classy pair, Raihana and River Jetez and Luca Cumani's Presvis.

"We are not here to make up the numbers, which perhaps could have been said of some Singapore runners in the past," Jumaat said yesterday. He will ride Better Than Ever every morning from now until Saturday. "I am excited because we are here with a genuine chance."

Compared to the hot humidity of Singapore, Jumaat said Dubai's climate would be no problem for the Laurie Laxon-trained runner.

"He is used to the heat. In fact, he will find this weather refreshing," the jockey said.

"Singapore is very humid and the air is fresher here.

"The turf is also no problem, it is quite firm but does not seem too different to what we have in Singapore."

And Jumaat, who has been a jockey for 21 years and is a big name in Singapore, said he was looking forward to Saturday night when he will test his skills in the big pond of Dubai's biggest race day.

"It's going to be a bit of a nervous time but I am more excited than worried," he said. "I will be riding against some of the best in the world and that is always a great challenge.

"I plan to take it steady and enjoy myself, but it is natural to feel nervous ahead of a race like that."