The Belgian jockey, who has ridden for some of horse racing's biggest stables, says he enjoys working in Dubai the most ahead of tonight's race in the UAE Oaks.
Christophe Soumillon loves working in De Kock stable
DUBAI // To say that Christophe Soumillon is having a good time in the UAE this season would be a wild understatement.
Soumillon, who is attached to Mike de Kock's high-flying Dubai yard for the second consecutive year, has ridden 11 Carnival winners this term, six more than his nearest rivals Frankie Dettori, Ted Durcan and Richard Hills, who are all on five.
And with a ride on Mahbooba, the red-hot favourite for the UAE Oaks, to look forward to tonight, Soumillon seems likely to add to his tally.
Quite apart from the success story told by the statistics, Soumillon himself admits he is having the most fun of his career.
And that is saying something. The Belgian had access to some of the best horses in the world during the eight years he spent as the Aga Khan's jockey.
He rode into the history books when partnering the undefeated Zarkava in all of her seven starts, including her win over the colts in the 2008 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
He also rode Dalakhani, the 2003 Horse of the Year, to four Group 1 victories, including the Arc, but Soumillon said he thrives on being part of De Kock's team.
"For the first time in my life I can get up in the mornings so quickly and so fresh," said the rider after his morning work. "I don't even think to stay five more minutes in bed because I just want to go to work every morning because I have such good horses to ride."
Those horses include a crop of excellent fillies and mares such as Mahbooba and River Jetez, the recent winner of the Group 2 Balanchine at Meydan Racecourse, as well as Raihana, last season's UAE Oaks winner and Derby runner-up.
Bold Silvano, a Dubai World Cup favourite, Musir, the 2010 UAE Derby victor, and Golden Sword, this season's revelation, are other highly regarded residents of De Kock's yard.
"The champion horses that I rode before, like Zarkava or Dhalakani, I just galloped them maybe three or four times," Soumillon said. "Apart from that I never rode them in the morning and I never [went] to the stables to see them like I do here, so for sure it gives you a lot of close feelings with the horses.
"I feel everything for them now and I know so much about them. I ride Bold Silvano, Mahbooba or Musir nearly every morning and that gives you confidence."
Bold Silvano, Musir and Golden Sword are shaping up to be World Cup contenders and, if all goes well, Soumillon will soon have to decide which one he will partner in the US$10 million (Dh36.7m) race.
For now, Soumillon is focused on Mahbooba, who claimed the UAE 1,000 Guineas by almost four lengths from stablemate Reem.
De Kock's Empire Rose is also running in the Oaks tonight, as are the Godolphin pair of Abtasaamah and Khawlah.
"Mahbooba really improved a lot this season," Soumillon said. "When I worked her the first time on turf, she really gave me something special. It's unusual to find a filly, a three-year-old, who has such a big amount of class.
"Mahbooba is the best filly that we have. Also I'm sure that the Tapeta track is not perfect for her because she is a long-paced filly and she loves her distance and so it will be interesting to see how she goes in the Oaks.
"I'm sure she will be good, so no problem. She was a bit crazy when she came here, a bit hot and we have found a way to help her enjoy her work every day, so it's a good sign."
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