ABU DHABI // It has been a rather unpredictable journey to the UAE for Eilidh Grant. The American amateur jockey is in Sunday night’s final of the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Championship (IFAHR) by default.
Grant, 33, was chosen as one of tonight’s 14 riders after she finished fourth in a qualifying race in Poland. The winner was disqualified while the second- and third- placed finishers had already ridden winners elsewhere in the series to earn a spot in Abu Dhabi.
The final race is the 12th in the series and brings the winners of all other races in the series staged around the world, along with a few invitees, in Abu Dhabi’s opening meeting of the season. The winning owner will earn Dh78,00 of the total Dh130,000 purse and the winning jockey will receive a Rolex watch worth Dh34,000.
“I was super excited when told that I would be riding in Abu Dhabi,” Grant said. “I felt bad for the winner of that race but the rules are rules. I am extremely lucky and it is amazing and an opportunity of a lifetime for me.”
Grant rode in two races in the series, finishing fifth in Oman and fourth in Poland.
She has also been riding in the FAGENTRI (International Federation of Gentlemen and Lady Riders) series in Oman, Qatar, Germany, and France, winning twice.
Grant will be on-board Bigg N Rich, one of the leading contenders for the top prize and one of five entries for the Abu Dhabi-based French trainer Eric Lemartinel.
“The horse looks great and full of energy,” she said after an exercise canter on the six-year-old chestnut son of Falina Des Fabries.
“I am really looking forward for the races. Looking at the paper there are a handful of horses with a chance and I may be one of them. It has all been like a fairy tale for me and I just wish now for a happy ending.
“It has been a great season too for me with a win at Deauville and two winners in Germany, so it has been a great year too.”
Grant is a work rider for William Backer, a private owner and breeder in his farm in the United States, who is no stranger to the UAE.
She accompanied the Mexico team as one of the crew members in the FEI World Endurance Championship for Junior and Young Riders in Abu Dhabi in 1997.
“I haven’t ridden in endurance since I was a teenager but I would love to do it again,” she said. “My first and last rides were winners. I won over 50 miles and 100 miles in Nevada and came second in another 100 miles in California. I have been competitive in endurance and have finished in the top 10 in the majority of the rides.”
Sunday night’s final is the last of a six-race card that opens the Abu Dhabi racing season, that also includes the Dh150,000 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup.
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Published: November 9, 2013 04:00 AM