12/30/2009 12:00AM

Q&A: Ahmed Ajtebi

Barbara D. Livingston
"Being a Breeders' Cup winner was one of my dreams," Ajtebi said.

Dubai-based jockey, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Vale of York, is spending six weeks in Southern California this winter.

Birthdate: Dec. 27, 1981, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Got into racing because . . . "My family is very close with Sheikh Mohammed. My dad is one of his best friends. I've known him since I was a kid. I rode in camel races from when I was 6 years old until I was 14. I didn't do anything in racing again until I was 22. One day we were having lunch. Sheikh Mohammed said Dubai had some of the best horses in the world. It had some of the best horse trainers in the world. But there were no horse jockeys from our country. He asked if I was interested. I was."

What was the next step? "There is no jockeys' school in Dubai. I was sent to Ireland and worked for John Oxx for four months. I had never sat on a horse until I was 22."

Was there a big difference from riding camels to riding horses? "You know, they don't even have camel jockeys any more. Now it's all robots with remote control. I won about 300 races. Horses are easier for me. I think because of my background with camels, it helped me with horses. If I was 22 and had never ridden anything, it would be difficult. The camel experience helped a lot. It got me about halfway there. The camel means to my country what the horse does for your country. It has meant so much for many, many years."

Why did you decide to come here for six weeks? "Sheikh Mohammed decides where I have to go. From the beginning to now, he is behind me 24 hours a day. Having won the Breeders' Cup, more people knew me in this country. It helped with my career. Eoin Harty was kind enough to let me join his stable. I was able to get a top agent in Craig O'Bryan, who I met through Gary Stevens."

How important was the Breeders' Cup win? "For me, it was my first Group 1 ride in America, and we won it. That horse had never been on that surface. We had a good draw. The favorite in the race [Lookin at Lucky] was unlucky with the draw. Being a Breeders' Cup winner was one of my dreams."

Hobbies: "It's difficult. In the winter I'm in Dubai, then in the summer I'm in England and all over Europe. When I have a day off, I like to go swimming. It is the best sport for me. There's no pressure on the joints. I also like to go hunting with falcons."

Greatest moment of career? "Winning two races on the World Cup card last March. I also was named Sportsman of the Year for my country for 2009. It's for all sports - racing, soccer, golf, swimming. I won. I'm accepting the award on Jan. 6. I leave Santa Anita on Jan. 4, and I'll be back on Jan. 7. I'm staying here until Jan. 20. The main part of our season, our racing carnival, begins on Jan. 28."

What things do you want to see in America while you are here? "Six weeks is a very short time. My focus is on my job. I want to meet the jockeys and trainers and be able to go back home having been helped for the future."

Best horses seen: "That's hard to answer. I've ridden everywhere. I've seen Curlin, Zenyatta, Dubai Millennium, Sea the Stars."

Best horse ridden: "Gladiatorus. He was my first ride in a Group 1, and we won. Winning two races on the World Cup card helped me a lot in my career."

Future ambitions: "I want to put my head down and ride like I've never won a race before. I try to represent my country, the Emirates flag. I don't do this for a job. I do it for my country."