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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Jockey Rosie Jessop ready to shine in the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship

The Briton among the field for Friday's race in Abu Dhabi.

Rosie Jessop, left rides Moscato to win a win at Ascot in 2015. On  Friday she competes in Abu Dhabi for the first time. Charlie Crowhurst / Getty Images
Rosie Jessop, left rides Moscato to win a win at Ascot in 2015. On Friday she competes in Abu Dhabi for the first time. Charlie Crowhurst / Getty Images

As part of a small but growing number of female jockeys, Rosie Jessop’s defies stereotypes about women in the sport.

“There’s always a big thing about female jockeys and an attitude that we’re not as strong," she said.

"But I’m in the gym constantly and I have a personal training session each week. Some people forget and think if you’re lighter you’re weaker. I’m at the lightest I’ve ever been but I’m also the strongest I’ve ever been.”

Jessop is in the UAE this weekend to take part in the world’s richest Arabian horse race at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.

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On Friday, Jessop will race against 10 other riders in the final of the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship, riding Bushrah Al Reef, who is trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi.

Jessop, 28, who is representing Britain in the race, has had 69 winners in her racing career.

However, competing in the UAE will be a new experience for Jessop, who spoke to The National ahead of the race.

“I’m excited about it,” she said. “It’s another track to be riding out in, another country. It’s such a fantastic opportunity as well. It’s brilliant.

It’ll be pretty hot over there but I spent two seasons in Bahrain so I’m used to riding in extreme heat. I remember once riding in 30 degrees!”

The ladies’ championship in Abu Dhabi marks the pinnacle of a great year for Jessop, a professional jockey for trainer Sir Mark Prescott, who has had a lifelong passion for racing.

“Mum and Dad always had race horses, mainly point to pointers rather than the flat horses. So, I learnt to ride from there. The only thing I ever wanted to do was to go to the racing school and go to Newmarket, which I did when I was 16,” she explained.

“I’d done a month’s work experience for Sir Mark Prescott before I went. After I finished my nine-week course at racing school, I came straight out of there and went to him, where I’ve been for the past 13 years.”

Jessop follows a gruelling training schedule to stay at the very top of her game. Her daily routine, which begins in the small hours of the morning, goes some way in showing why she’s held in such high esteem by Newmarket’s longest serving trainer.

“I’m in Sir Mark’s at 4.30am every morning, I work there and go to the gym at lunchtime. Then I go back for afternoon stables as well, so I’d be there from 3pm till 6pm," she adds. “Then it’s in the gym again in the evening or try and socialise.”

Fitness is key to a champion jockey and something which Jessop takes very seriously. In a race like Abu Dhabi, where the horses are a complete unknown, knowing you are at peak strength is the only constant.

“Of the horses that I’ve ridden so far, about 90 per cent I’ve never seen in my life. I learn from videos to see I how they run.

"Other than that, you’re on and off them in five minutes. The only thing I can do is go there and be as fit and strong as I can.”

As well as strength, fearlessness is a vital attribute for jockeys in a sport in which few have never broken a bone.

“I’ve had a couple of falls on the track and a couple at home. Ligaments, bones, stuff like that ... it hurts!”

“The last fall I had on the racecourse was across the winning line so we were going pretty quick.

The horse in front of me came across and I clipped its heel and I hit the deck. [Jockey] Adam Kirby rang me when I was in hospital and said: ‘You need to just forget about it and the next time you go out there pretend it never happened.

"If you think it happened then you’ll never want to do it again’. You have to put it to the back of your mind.”

So what is the secret to winning a race like the Ladies World Championship? “It’s a combination of adrenaline and fitness. Whether you can pick your horse up and get it to finish.”

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