Name: Ahmed Ajtebi
Job title: Jockey
One of the most striking images from the 2009 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in California was that of a beaming Ahmed Ajtebi entering the winner’s enclosure atop the victorious Vale Of York, with the UAE flag proudly draped around his shoulders.
The Dubai native, who views every success in the saddle as a triumph for his homeland, has enjoyed notable wins in major contests around the globe.
Born on December 27, 1981, Ahmed Ajtebi is the nephew of one of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed’s longstanding friends, Saeed Manana, well known for his ownership of top-class horses such as Warrsan, Luso and Needle Gun.
Ahmed Ajtebi is unique among the world’s leading jockeys as his race-riding career began in the desert astride camels. From the age of seven to 15, he competed in camel races over distances ranging from five furlongs to six and a half miles, notching some 200 victories from approximately 3,000 rides.
He then worked with his father, who trained camels, and helped bring them along to be racing stars. It was H.H. Sheikh Mohammed, while discussing camel racing with Ahmed Ajtebi, who pointed out that although UAE horses competed all over the world under the care of a Dubaian trainer in Saeed bin Suroor, there was not a single UAE-born jockey.
At that point aged 21, Ahmed Ajtebi had never sat on a horse but the seed was sown. Under the direction of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed, the camel jockey began the remarkable transition to accomplished racehorse rider.
In 2003, he and two other Dubai-born riders went to the Irish apprentice school to gain experience and Ahmed Ajtebi also accumulated valuable knowledge during four months with Classic-winning trainer John Oxx.
He returned to Dubai that autumn and had his first career ride on November 13, 2003, at Nad Al Sheba, finishing 10th aboard the John Sadler-trained Junction Line.
The following year, he furthered his education at the Australian apprentice school in Melbourne and was elated when riding his first winner, Al Tharb at Geelong, also for John Sadler.
Two successful summers in South Africa with trainer Mike de Kock, yielded further success as Ahmed Ajtebi’s evolution into a talented jockey continued. He partnered a total of 19 winners from 85 rides in those two spells in South Africa, as well as a pair of major victories in Zimbabwe.
With the benefit of such valuable experience, albeit in a relatively short space of time, the Dubaian was ready to test himself against the best riders in Europe. He arrived in England for the 2007 season, splitting his time between trainers Bryan Smart, David Simcock and Clive Brittain.
Six winners from 26 rides that summer showed that he was more than capable of competing in England. He returned to Dubai where he was crowned champion apprentice for the 2007/2008 season with 11 wins, when attached to the stable of Emirati trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe.
Ahmed Ajtebi went back to the UK for the 2008 Flat season and the confidence gained from his successful UAE campaign was evident as he made history on one of the world’s most eminent stages.
Riding Regal Parade for trainer Dandy Nicholls, he became the first Emirati jockey to taste victory at Royal Ascot as he partnered the gelding to success in the Buckingham Palace Handicap.
That summer, riding mainly for Dandy Nicholls, Clive Brittain and Bryan Smart, brought 10 wins from 72 rides and provided a springboard to an unforgettable Dubai season that winter when he posted his best UAE total of 18 wins from 210 rides.
But the numerical successes during the winter of 2008/09 paled when compared to the jockey’s exploits on Dubai World Cup night in March, 2009, as he stunned racegoers and viewers with a brilliant Group One double that announced his arrival on the global stage.
The first of those triumphs came aboard Gladiatorus in the nine-furlong US$5-million Dubai Duty Free.
The jockey dictated the pace from the start and stormed down the Nad Al Sheba straight to go clear before winning by three and a quarter lengths. Gladiatorus was officially rated the best horse in the world after that sensational win against a strong field.
Just under an hour later, Ahmed exhibited fine judgement as he brought Eastern Anthem from last to first in the Dubai Sheema Classic, also worth US$5-million, gaining victory by a nose in the final stride.
In 2009, Ahmed notched 21 winners in Britain, 14 of those coming for Godolphin. He also captained the Rest Of The World team at Ascot’s Shergar Cup and added to his Group One haul when partnering his old friend Gladiatorus to a smooth success in the Premio Vittorio di Capua at San Siro, Milan, in October.
That win proved to be a fitting appetizer for a remarkable first Breeders’ Cup triumph at Santa Anita, California, a month later. Ahmed Ajtebi had the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Vale Of York in third place as the field entered the final furlong of the Grade One Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes. With the winning post looming, he switched his mount off the rail and drove the colt to a thrilling head success over the US champion juvenile Lookin At Lucky.
The rider gained further experience in America later in the year, thanks to a spell with trainer Eoin Harty at Santa Anita.
More big-race joy came on the 2010 Dubai World Cup night when sporting the royal blue Godolphin silks to win the Group Two Godolphin Mile with Calming Influence at Meydan. He enjoyed further big-race glory when Biondetti triumphed in the Group One Gran Criterium at Milan, Italy, in October, 2010.
He rode out his apprentice claim when partnering Godolphin’s Anacopa to victory in a fillies’ maiden at Lingfield Park on June 21, 2010.
Ahmed Ajtebi had seven winners, the same total as the previous year, at the 2011 Dubai World Cup Carnival. He partnered 21 winners in Britain the same year.
It was during the 2012 Dubai World Cup Carnival that the jockey celebrated his next Group One winner. He partnered Capponi for the first time in the Group One Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three Sponsored By Emirates at Meydan on March 10 and chased the leader before going for home turning into the straight.
Capponi, who had progressed from winning handicaps, scored impressively by four lengths and ran another very good race, with Ahmed Ajtebi up, when second to stable companion Monterosso in the Group One Dubai World Cup Sponsored By Emirates on March 31.
Ahmed Ajtebi Facts & Figures (2009-2014)
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