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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 7 March 2021

Fernando Jara: Dubai World Cup-winning jockey regains his focus after a career of highs and lows

A superstar by the age of 19, the Panamanian, now 32, reflects on his big race highlights and his current role riding for Ali Rashid Al Raihe's stables

Fernando Jara and Wildman Jack after their victory in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint, Pawan Singh / The National
Fernando Jara and Wildman Jack after their victory in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint, Pawan Singh / The National

Fernando Jara shot to fame as a jockey when he was still a teenager. He won the 2006 Belmont Stakes on board Jazil and followed it up with victories in the Breeder’s Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup on Inavsor the following year.

His success on Dubai World Cup night in March 2007 remains one of the highlights of his career.

“The Dubai World Cup was the biggest money race at that time and that’s what everybody was looking forward to, and to win that, was a big moment for me,” Jara told The National.

“There was a lot of expectations after Invasor’s success in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. I was lucky and I was on top of the world.”

All three of those high-profile race wins were achieved in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid on horses trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.

The two victories with Invasor, who was subsequently named 2006 American Horse of the Year, were worth $11 million (Dh40.4m) and brought a substantial windfall for Jara. The money and fame had an affect on a 19-year-old Jara, by his own admission.

“I did a lot of things wrong following the successes I enjoyed. I was very young and things happened very quickly," the 32-year-old from Panama said.

“I’m not saying I did anything bad but I just became too laid back and started missing my morning work. So, it was that type of things when I lost my way a bit.”

The realisation for him came when McLaughlin took Jara off his horses and then fate struck a cruel blow when he broke a collarbone at Hollywood Park in November 2007.

“I was provided with a lot of opportunities to ride some good horses at a very young age. I’m very thankful for them even now,”Jara said.

“I worked really hard to achieve those successes but having enjoyed those successes, I started to relax a bit. There were lot of other jockeys waiting for opportunities and I allowed that to happen due to my own faults.”

After losing his job at McLaughlin’s Kentucky stables, Jara shuttled across his native Panama before joining Dubai trainer Musabah Al Muhairi in 2015/16.

Jara rode 26 winners on his first season in the UAE. He rode for the Oasis Stables for three seasons before moving to the Grandstand Stables of Al Muhairi’s brother-in-law Ali Rashid Al Raihe for the last two seasons.

Jara enjoys his present work, spending six months in the UAE and the other half at his native Panama.

“It has worked out fine for me,” he said. “I get to spend more time with my family, and I enjoy working six months each across Dubai and my home in Panama.”

Jara is hoping he will get to ride a few horses at the silver jubilee Dubai World Cup meeting, having ridden the Purebred Arabian Bandar to win the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round-3, the prep race for the Dubai Kahayla Classic on the Dubai World Cup night.

In last week’s Super Saturday, Jara steered American trainer Doug O’Neill’s Wildman Jack to win the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Sprint in a new track record time, ensuring the horse will start as one of the leading candidates for the Dubai World Cup meeting’s Al Quoz Sprint.

“There are no confirmations that I will be booked to ride these horses on the Dubai World Cup night, but I hope I get one or two riding opportunities at the meeting,” Jara said.

One thing is for certain: whatever opportunities come Jara's way, he is sure to grab them with both hands.

Published: March 9, 2020 12:09 PM

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