Bratislava, Slovakia: One word that keeps cropping up when talking to Esmail Mohammad, the dual endurance world championship winning trainer, is quality.
Achieving good results, he says, has everything to do with quality — from the horse to its training to the execution of the ride.
Esmail is clearly a man driven by the desire to achieve the best results and he purses that objective relentlessly. Which explains how he has been able to find the right balance between training endurance horses and thoroughbred racehorses, simultaneously.
Less than a month ago Esmail achieved one of the biggest successes of his 20-year career when he saddled UAE-bred Yaamah to win the gold medal at the Alltech FEC World Endurance Games in Normandy, France. Last week he added another World Championship to his growing list of honours when Tiswan Fageole galloped to victory under young Emirati rider Mansour Saeed Al Faresi in Samorin, Slovakia.
Esmail had some interesting things to say about his twin roles during a recent interview with Gulf News.
Esmail, it’s hard enough training racehorses, how do you manage to also prepare endurance horses for all the major events around the world.
There is no secret, it only comes with my love for horses. If you look at a competition horse as you would look at a race car of jet, then you are in the wrong business. You have to love horses and treat them like differently. Of course you have to discipline them and push them sometimes, but that’s what training is all about. If you asked me this question earlier in my career I would not have had the right answer. But being in this business since 1992, I think the horses are the answer. They deliver the results and that’s what keeps you going to work with them each day.
Do you focus on endurance or racehorses more?
No. I balance my time between both types of horses. Of course when there is a big ride coming up I may spend a little more time with my endurance horses, but that’s also the case when there is a big flat race.
How many horses do you have in your stables?
I never like to answer that question, because its not about how many horses I have, but how many quality horses do I have. I like to focus more on quality and not quantity. I’m happier with a few good quality horses than a full stable of horses that don’t show me anything.
What do you look for in a so-called quality horse?
You can tell right from the beginning when a horse can give you something. Good horses have that look. It’s easier to work with them as opposed to horses that are just there to fill the stables. I like to see a horse progress every day, every week, every month. That’s when you know they are trying, that they understand what you want from them as a trainer. Obviously endurance horses must have natural stamina, and a big heart. Racehorses are a bit different, you can train them to improve from one race to the other. But a good horse is a good horse, right from the day you receive him.
You must have been over the moon to have won the Endurance World Championship at Normandy last month. How important was that win for you?
Very important. That was a big stage, the best horses in the world were competing. So to win the event, and win it like we did by dominating the ride and winning comfortably in the end, was what you work for every single day. You make a lot of sacrifices as a trainer, getting up early, not being with your family most of the time, spending long hours out in the desert. But when you achieve success like the Normandy victory, it more than compensates for anything that you put into the game.
And now you’ve also won the World Endurance Championship for Young Horses. Winning is becoming a habit,..
Yes it’s a good feeling to have won two world championships, but it doesn’t stop here. We have to keep our focus on the future.
Are you happy with the success you have achieved on the flat? I remember the time when you were top trainer at the Carnival in 2007?
Like I said before, I’m happy to win quality races. I’m not in it to become the champion trainer. I know the limitations of my stable. But yes, I’m satisfied with the results my horses have achieved on the flat. But we could do better.
I have won the Al Maktoum Challenge and Al Rashidiya in Dubai and some nice races in Brazil (Grande Premio Sao Paolo) at Doncaster, Newmarket and Wolverhampton. So we’re doing OK.
Do you still set targets and goals?
No. My goal is to prepare a horse to give 100 per cent in a race and to win as many races as I can. I don’t chase records, or big prizes. If they happen, then I’m happy for my team without whom I could not achieve the results.