Sunday, May 22, 2011

UAE: Legendary Emirati jockey gallops down memory lane - Full Article

Aziz Al Redha recalls his best memories as a pioneering amateur jockey in the UAE

* By Leslie Wilson Jr, Racing & Special Features Writer
* Published: 00:01 May 22, 2011

Dubai: It's not everyday that you get to sit down and have a lively and enlightening conversation with a pioneering jockey turned avid racehorse trainer — especially when you've been a fan of the sport for as far as you can remember.

So, when I got the chance to meet Aziz Al Redha, one of the greats of horse racing in the UAE, the encounter gave me an understanding of just how important a role he has played given the context and prominent position that the sport now enjoys.

It did not take me long to realise that even after 30 odd years in the business, Al Redha is just as obsessed with horses, and on winning, as he ever was. After we talked shop about the "good old times" and the growth that the sport has benefited from, he answered some burning questions with anecdotes and witty comebacks.

Comfort levels

We began to share a bond and it helped strengthen my comfort levels at the risk of being spontaneous. This provoked me to explore his love for the sport of endurance, which seems an unusual destination for somebody who was passionately involved in racehorses.

"This is entirely different to what I did for 20 years in racing. Now I'm running my own small yard mainly for endurance," he said. "I got into endurance out of coincidence, by just playing around with some retired race horses. As the sport was becoming popular in the UAE I thought I'll have a go and learn something. I had a trial and error attitude to it all. But alhamdulilla [All praise is due to Allah] we've been pretty successful.

"I train mainly for my daughter Laila who is a good rider and a serious [competitor]. We — my wife and I — taught her since she was three. She's done dressage and jumping before she got into endurance, so she has the right balance, the handling and the feel," Al Redha explains. "Endurance doesn't teach you that, nor does a riding school. To be a good endurance rider you have got to be relaxed and you can only be relaxed if you are confident..."

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