William Buick has a few milestones he wants to reach during his budding career as a professional jockey. Chief among them are to win the Epsom Derby and the British Jockeys Championship.
But while they are two titles the Norwegian-born rider would love to add to his growing collection “someday”, he is careful not to get too bogged down by specific targets.
"It's a tough thing to achieve, but it has been the ambition for me for a while," he told The National during a promotional appearance at the Under Armour store at The Dubai Mall on Wednesday. "Having said that, everything can change in this game.
"You don’t want to set too many targets, and I guess you don’t want to look too far ahead. What’s important for me right now is to stay healthy and well, suspension free to carry on riding.”
One childhood dream the 29-year-old Buick did realise was becoming a retained jockey with Godolphin in 2015.
“It was a high moment in my career,” he said about securing a full-time job with the Dubai-based racing operation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. “I had ridden for Godolphin before, but to be employed as a retained jockey was a very proud and very happy moment for me."
Indeed, Buick had partnered with Godolphin's horses on several occasions. Most notably, he claimed two Group 1 wins: aboard Sajjhaa in the Jebel Hatta race at Meydan Racecourse in 2013, and atop Charming Thought in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in 2014.
Buick's Dubai World Cup win
Buick still remembers the time when he was hired, for which he was flown into Dubai for a meeting with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.
“At first I couldn’t quite believe this was happening, and it took some time for it to sink in,” he said. “His Highness was very supportive. It was a very proud moment for me personally. I knew there was a great team behind me and it was indeed great to join the team.
“I didn’t know what to expect before I joined but they made it very easy for me, and I integrated very well with all the people behind the scenes. They made my life easy.”
It was so easy that Buick celebrated his big break just two months later when he won the Dubai World Cup on board Prince Bishop, trained by Saeed bin Suroor.
“Winning the Dubai World Cup that year was amazing. It was a big achievement," Buick said. "But I’m still looking forward [to more such wins]. I want to stay focused and achieve more."
Buick was born into an equestrian family. His Scottish-born father, Walter, was a Scandinavian champion jockey. His mother, Maria, was a dressage rider and showjumper.
“It was natural progression for me,” Buick said on becoming a jockey. “It came just naturally for me. I followed my family, rode ponies from a young age. When I was eight, I found out I was more interested on horses than going to school.”
Buick left school at the age of 16 to start an apprenticeship in England. He rode in his first professional race in August 2006, and recorded his first win a month later.
“I didn’t know what level I would achieve but I felt very comfortable riding horses, because I did something that I loved doing,” he said. “I worked to improve myself every day, and I still try to improve myself every day."
He is humble enough to point out that he was at the right place at the right time. “I had some good people around me, some great trainers, and the support from my father, which helped me to go in the right direction.”
Buick is the leading jockey in the Dubai World Cup Carnival. He goes into the Super Saturday meeting, the dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup, on 11 winners - four more than Christophe Soumillon. And having committed to six rides in the seven-race card, he seems to have the carnival's Champion Jockey title in the bag.
He is aboard Folkswood and Boynton in the Jebel Hatta and Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, respectively. Both are Group 1 prizes. He rides Masar in the Listed Al Bastakiya, Comicas in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal and Jungle Cat in the third race. He also partners Hawkbill in the concluding Group 2 Dubai City of Gold.
His thoughts on Saturday night? “We have a nice team of horses who are healthy and well. I think we have some good shots."