'My dream, my ambition': the Bahrain trailblazer making his way in British horseracing

Ebrahim Nader is spending three months at Andrew Balding's famous Kingsclere yard - and he aims to return soon to compete

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In a bucolic corner of England, a young jockey from Bahrain is taking his first steps in what he hopes will become a successful career in horseracing in Britain.

"That is my dream, my ambition," said 21-year-old Ebrahim Nader, a trailblazer for the Kingdom where thoroughbred racing is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Nader, a member of the Bahrain Turf Club’s academy, is spending three months in England on work experience and is developing his skills at the famous Kingsclere yard of Andrew Balding.

Balding trains for Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the grandson of the current King, and it is that connection that has enabled the ever-smiling Nader to come over to Park House Stables.

He has proved to be a popular addition to the roster of work riders and apprentices who are developing their trade under the watchful eye of the highly successful Balding. Since arriving in June he has rubbed shoulders with, and taken advice from, among others Oisin Murphy and Andre Atzeni – both champion jockeys in Britain who ride out for Balding.

"Ebrahim really has thrown himself into the deep end and embraced it,” Balding’s wife Anna Lisa said. “He is very popular and Andrew really rates his riding. He can ride pretty much anything we have. And he never stops smiling. He is a great ambassador for Bahrain. We ‘d love to have him back next year with a view to riding in races."

Nader is no novice. He has ridden 30 winners in Bahrain and last year lost his claim (the weight advantage apprentice jockeys are allowed in races). At 5ft 7ins (1.72m) he is relatively tall for a rider and has sometimes struggled with his weight, which has now settled at 54kg.

“I started riding when I was 12,” he said. “My family support me a lot, and my friends. My father used to be a rider so I learnt from him. It has always been my passion to be a jockey. In the evenings I rode after school. I was invited me to join the academy.

Ebrahim Nader enjoying a day at Royal Ascot. Photo: Ebrahim Nader

"The most difficult thing I had to learn, it is all about balance. You have to work hard. It is not easy to be a jockey.”

Of jockeys in the UK, he admires James Doyle and Tom Marquand, but above all it’s Frankie Dettori. “He is the King," he said with his trademark smile.

The Bahrain Jockey Academy was set up in February last year and provides both jockey and fitness coaching to educate on all aspects of race riding. The programme also covers horse management, horse welfare, the rules of racing and riding tactics. It has 40 registered users, including apprentice jockeys and work riders who would like to progress.

How has he found it in England? "I am really enjoying it here," he said. "I play football, go to the pool, watch films. I used to make my own food back in Bahrain but here I join in with everyone. It is good. You never get bored. I have made a lot of friends.

"They are so helpful. My ambition is to ride in the UK. It is difficult because you need the right papers to do so. I would like to come back next year. I am so happy here and I hope they are happy with me. The Baldings are such good people."

Because of the heat in Bahrain, he rides out at 3.30am and again at 4.30pm. In England he starts at 7am, breaks at 1pm and resumes at 5.30pm. “I like that because you can get closer to the horse.”

Nader has got into the swing of things. In June, he dressed up in top hat and tails and tartan trousers for Royal Ascot, and has attended barbecues and been shopping, as well as playing football at Park House with other lads.

In Bahrain, he rides for both an Arabian horse stable and a thoroughbred stable. “I prefer the thoroughbred. They are bigger, faster and more prestigious.”

Whatever he rides his family are always behind him. "They are proud of me. I have two sisters and four brothers. Every weekend they will be there, all of them watching."

He goes back to Bahrain at the end of August to prepare for the new season, which starts in November. The Kingdom is really making waves in global racing with, among other events, the prestigious International Trophy and the return of the Turf Series, which starts in December.

He will leave behind a word of advice. "There is a horse called Twin Earth who is an unraced two-year-old at Mr Balding’s. I think he has the potential to win the Derby next year."

Updated: July 15, 2022, 6:00 PM