x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Taking the fast route to success

The Emirati jockey Ahmad Ajtebi is seven race wins off losing his apprenticeship tag.

Ahmed Ajtebi, astride Regal Parade, won the Buckingham Palace Stakes race in June this year.
Ahmed Ajtebi, astride Regal Parade, won the Buckingham Palace Stakes race in June this year.

One down, seven to go for the Emirati jockey Ahmad Ajtebi. He rode a winner in Abu Dhabi's opening meeting to take his tally to 63 and is now seven short of shedding his apprenticeship, which he hopes to achieve soon. "But there is no great hurry, I am still enjoying the claim," said Ajtebi, 25, who rode a winner and was placed second four times in the first two meetings of the season in Nad Al Sheba and Abu Dhabi.

"I'm very happy with my progress. God willing, I am looking at a bright career ahead," added Ajtebi, who is the first jockey for the new trainer Mubarak Khalifa bin Shafya. Shafya is the endurance race horse trainer for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and was a member of the gold medal winning team in the world championship in Malaysia last week. Ajtebi is also the first jockey for Mohammed Ramadan and is the second choice man for Emirati trainer Ali Rashid al Raihe.

Ajtebi added: "Mubarak has an all-thoroughbred string which we will see soon on the track and Ramadan has a majority of the Purebreds. So there is no clash between the two stables for the moment." Ajtebi became the first jockey from the region to win at the Royal Ascot meeting earlier this year when he rode the David Nicholls trained 25-1 shot Regal Parade in the Buckingham Palace Stakes. "For me, riding at the Royal Ascot meeting was itself an experience. And winning there was not only a proud occasion for me but for my country and to all those who have supported me all along."

Ajtebi singles out Yasir Mabrouk, the Emirates Racing Authority's senior clerk of the scales and the official interpreter, as the biggest influence in his professional career. "He's there with me - 24 hours and 365 days on the phone, whether I'm here or abroad," said Ajtebi. "Of course it was His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, who put me on the road to success, for which I am ever so grateful. "I use to ride camels as a young boy. I enjoyed the thrills and excitement of those bumpy rides.

"And I had the good fortune of meeting His Highness who asked me if I would be interested in riding horses. I was very excited and accepted the offer. "He arranged for my first lessons on riding and sent me to Ireland for my first formal education, followed by a similar course in Australia. I travelled to South Africa three times and the UK twice as part of my schooling." It has been a race to the top all the way for Ajtebi, who returns to the domestic season after notching up four winners from 10 rides in Kenya and Zimbabwe, and having spent a successful summer in the UK where he rode 10 winners.

"I think I'm a better and more confident rider than I was last season. So I'm really looking forward to the season ahead. Every trainer or owner likes to have the best jockey on his horse, but I think I can be just as good," smiled Ajtebi, who has ridden winners in eight countries including the UK, Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Bahrain and Qatar. "I like riding because it is very challenging. But riding winners is not the only priority for me.

"I want to raise my country's image where ever I ride and show the world the UAE not only own some of the best race horses in the world but they can also produce trainers and jockeys." apassela@thenational.ae