Al Mazrooei is an ambitious rider in a hurry

He is an eager business school graduate who has given himself three years to be in the elite class of jockeys.

Saeed al Mazrooei is a man on a mission.
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Saeed al Mazrooei is an impatient young man.

Six months ago, with no previous flat racing experience, he decided to become a jockey. Within three years, he says, he intends to be riding in horse racing's biggest competitions.

That's an ambitious plan for a 23-year-old business school graduate who is still a novice in the world of speeding half-ton thoroughbreds, tiny saddles and the precariously short stirrups.

"This is what I want to do with my life," he said. "Inside three years I would like to be riding in the best races in the world - races like the Breeders' Cup."

Never mind that most world-class jockeys put in years as an amateur or apprentice rider before reaching the big leagues. The Dubai native appears unperturbed by the huge challenge he has set himself.

"It's all about getting as much experience as I can," said al Mazrooei, who comes from a family of endurance riders. "I want to be in the saddle as often as possible."

Last Friday, after a whirlwind half-year of training that included a four-month stint at a jockey school in Ireland, al Mazrooei rode in his first professional race. He finished seventh out of 13 in a 1,400m handicap at Jebel Ali Racecourse.

World-renowned jockeys including Kieren Fallon, the six-time British champion, and Richard Hills, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's premier rider, were also on Friday's card. Their skills in the saddle are a result of decades of experience - but al Mazrooei doesn't intend to wait that long.

His fast-track education will continue at the Grandstand Stables, situated behind Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, where trainer Ali Rashid al Raihe has shaped the careers of jockey Ahmed Ajtebi and Mahmood al Zarooni, Godolphin's second trainer.

"I know I am in the best place to learn," said al Mazrooei, who has a daily 3.30am start. "I'm impatient to develop as quickly as possible, to ride the best horses and to get out there and start racing."

Al Raihe can confirm reports of al Mazrooei's impatience. A veteran trainer who has spent 15 years conditioning horses in the UAE, he counsels patience to his ambitious young charge.

"I tell him to take it one step at a time," said al Raihe, who added that the eager jockey often asks to gallop the yard's stable stars, including Al Shemali, the 2010 Dubai Duty Free winner.

"Every day he asks me to put him up on the best horses. He is learning very fast but he must start small and learn well.

"Before we considered him to ride in a race he jumped from the starting gates with stalls handlers and the starter and galloped with our number one jockey, Royston Ffrench, Ahmed [Ajtebi] and Willie Supple.

"It is very good that he is passionate about being a jockey and wants to do everything quickly, but I tell him to go step by step."

Al Mazroorei, who stands 1.61m tall and weighs 47kgs, is trying to make up for lost time. Most of his colleagues were brought up in horse racing and started riding, either as an amateur or an apprentice, when they were 16.

Harry Bentley, the 18-year-old British apprentice who rode his ninth UAE winner on Sunday, is an example of the tried and tested journey from amateur to fully-fledged jockey.

Work experience at a racing yard gave way to riding out. That led to rides in amateur races and finally to an apprenticeship.

Now, Bentley has already ridden 13 winners in England and here in the UAE he is attached to Satish Seemar, the current table-topping trainer.

By the time he reaches al Mazrooei's age, he will have gained another five years' experience. But al Mazrooei says he wants to be more like Ajtebi, a Breeders' Cup-winning jockey and a regular feature at the world's best meetings. He's also an Emirati who started his career later than normal.

Ajtebi was 22 when he had his first career ride at Nad al Sheba in 2003, and 27 when he shed his apprentice tag after spending time learning the ropes in major stables all over the world.

In 2009, he beat a host of top international jockeys to win two turf races on Dubai World Cup Day, aboard Gladiatorus and Eastern Anthem. Soon after, he was propelled by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, into the high-flying world of Godolphin's international string.

It was while riding for Godolphin that he claimed his biggest win to date, the Breeder's Cup Juvenile on Vale of York.

Ajtebi is obviously a role model for al Mazrooei, but the apprentice, who is not short on confidence, sees the Godolphin rider as competition.

"He is my countryman and my brother and he has spoken to me about being a jockey, but if we are in the same race together then of course I want to beat him," al Mazrooei said.

To help in his quest, the Emirates Racing Authority sent the young hopeful to the Riding Academy and Centre of Education jockey school in Ireland - the same path trodden by Ajtebi a few years ago.

"I was riding eight lots every morning," al Mazroorei said. "I learned it was a tiring job but I am committed to this way of life and I want to succeed."

He's prepared, he says, for an uphill struggle to make a name for himself in racing.

If he succeeds, the pay-off is an induction into an elite club of jockeys who travel by private jet and compete in races worth millions on horses worth just as much which are owned by some of the richest, most powerful people in the world. "I thought that being a jockey would be a good future for me," he said.

Yassir Mabrook, the Clerk of the Scales at the racing authority, may travel to South Africa with al Mazrooei during the off-season to help the apprentice gain more experience.

"He has had his first race now and that is good," Mabrook said. "He had to prove to everyone, including the jockeys, that he was ready.

"The next few times he races he will continue on the straight and then when Ali feels he is ready he will start to race around the bend for the longer races.

"Ali is the perfect man to guide Saeed. He knows when to be firm and when to be encouraging."

If anybody knows about patience, it is Ajtebi who went to visit al Mazrooei while the trainee was in Ireland.

"I understand that Saeed wants to be out there riding in every race," Ajtebi said. "That was how I felt too but you have to take time to learn.

"I spent a long time just learning - I was in South Africa and Ireland and Australia, learning from everybody. I was just like him, impatient to start riding winners, but there is so much to learn about being a jockey that you just can't do it overnight."

Ajtebi said he did not mind having a new Emirati rival on the scene either, albeit a rival a few years behind him. "It's great to have another Emirati rider and I hope that there will be more in the future," he said. "I wish Saeed all the best in his career and I hope that in time he surpasses my achievements," Ajtebi said.