x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Dubai World Cup: Jilani Siddiqui proving to be a family guy

The man assisting trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe remains committed to his boss, with whom he wants to win more titles, writes Amith Passela.

Jilani Siddiqui, the assistant trainer at Grandstand Stables, comes from a family of equine professionals, but the Pakistani former jockey has carved a niche for himself in the horse racing community. Razan Alzayani / The National
Jilani Siddiqui, the assistant trainer at Grandstand Stables, comes from a family of equine professionals, but the Pakistani former jockey has carved a niche for himself in the horse racing community. Razan Alzayani / The National

It would be barely scratching the surface to say horses are in Jilani Siddiqui's blood.

His grandfather, Abdulrahman Siddiqui, was a riding instructor in the Pakistan army. His father, Abdul Qadir, was a jockey and, later, a trainer.

"When my grandfather passed away in 1980 my father took over that job as an instructor," Jilani said.

He comes from a family of 20, and eight of the 10 boys are employed in the equine industry. Jilani, now 37, has been riding from his childhood days and was on board a winner, Simple Gift, trained by his father, on his first race as an apprentice. He counts over 150 winners in Pakistan until giving up his career as a jockey in 2003.

He has joined another racing family here in the UAE, as the trusted assistant to the veteran Emirati trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, and a victory in the Dubai World Cup on Saturday is the goal of both men, and Grandstand Stables.

He had tasted success in his first week as assistant to Al Raihe when Al Shemali won the US$5 million (Dh18.3m) Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night in 2010.

"That was a moment I would cherish for a long, long time," said Siddiqui.

"To lead the horse with my boss to the winner's enclosure with the entire equine world watching is still my biggest moment to date.

"I wish my boss saddles a World Cup winner, perhaps in the near future. That is the day I am looking forward to after the success we have had with Al Shemali."

Siddiqui arrived in Dubai as a work rider for the trainer Bill Mather in 1997. He rode a race for him and a ride each for Adityan Selvaratnam at Nad Al Sheba, Mazin Al Kurdi at Sharjah, and Abdullah Al Baloushi in Abu Dhabi.

He returned to Pakistan to get married and, after the birth of his first daughter, he was back as a work rider for Al Raihe in 2003. He was promoted as head lad two years later and filled in the position of Mahmoud Al Zarooni when the Emirati was appointed as Godolphin's second trainer in March 2010, a week before the Dubai World Cup.

"I am very thankful to my boss because such jobs don't open up so easily," Siddiqui said. "I was very fortunate, too, because after one week I was leading a Group 1 winner.

"It was a very big achievement for my boss, for me and for the entire staff because he was not one of the fancied runners."

Of his memories of Al Shemali, he added: "Obviously, he was not only my favourite racehorse but for the entire stable. It is also the best memory so far for me.

"I had the good fortune to travel with Al Shemali to Singapore after the Dubai World Cup and that was a new experience for me.

"So yes, Al Shemali was the lucky horse for me and he made me also a little famous among my little community."

Siddiqui has high regard for Al Raihe and also acts as an interpreter to pass on the instructions to the jockeys and answer questions from the English-speaking media.

"For me, he has been a great boss to work with. He gave me the real break and improved my life. I have completed seven years at the Grandstand Stables and enjoying every moment of it.

"He has a lot of trust in his staff. He would not hesitate handing over responsibilities."

Siddiqui clearly knows the ins and outs of the business, as do most of the men in his family.

Abdul Waheed, the eldest brother, is an instructor in Cadet College in Karachi. Fateh helps his father in a stud farm. Najam and Haider are work riders for the Irish trainer Jim Bolger, in Dublin, while Abid and Abdul Raheem have similar jobs with Al Zarooni.

Mohammed Ali is the only one employed outside the equestrian industry and the youngest, Nawaz, 14, is still in school.

Siddiqui makes a visit every year to Pakistan in April to be with his parents. But he also feels "at home with an extended family at the Grandstand Stable".

Most of his free time is spent playing cricket in the stable compound and he says Royston Ffrench, the British jockey, is a regular member on one of the teams.

Siddiqui has no long-term plans beyond Grandstand Stables and the coming weekend. Al Raihe has two horses in the US$1 million (Dh3.67m) Godolphin Mile, Mufarrh and Haatheq, and one in the $2m Golden Shaheen, Tamaathul.

He said: "I am not thinking too much of my future but want to continue working for the boss as long as possible and want to see him winning the Dubai World Cup when I am still with him."

apassela@thenational.ae

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