Dubai A year after suffering a horrific fall at Jebel Ali Racecourse, jockey Royston Ffrench was in an exuberant mood as he looked forward to what potentially could be one of the biggest weeks of the 2018-2019 UAE racing season for him.
Ffrench, who endured seven months of torment as he made a slow-but-steady recovery following the mishap aboard the ill-fated Frankyfourfingers last January, rides both the favourites in Friday’s two Listed races — the Jebel Ali Stakes and the Jebel Ali Sprint which carry a total purse of over Dh1 million.
His relish for the sport was very much unwavering as he talked about his chances with Montsarrat in the Stakes and High On Live in the Sprint.
It would mean a great deal to me, as it would to every jockey, to win all the three big races at Jebel Ali... I have had a great career here in the UAE.
“This time last year was very different,” said Ffrench who had watched the action at Jebel Ali from a wheelchair. “Having two very big rides in the two big races is something I’m looking forward to. I’m very grateful for all the support I have received here in the UAE and hopefully we’ll have a great day on Friday.”
“Montsarrat won the race last year so hopefully if he’s in the same form he’ll have a good chance. High On Life loves it at Jebel Ali so you never know,” added Ffrench who in 2010 won the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile with Jet Express.
“It would mean a great deal to me, as it would to every jockey, to win all the three big races at Jebel Ali. I am fortunate that I’ve have the chance to do so thanks to the great career that I have had here in the UAE.”
Ffrench also revealed that patience was the key to riding the right-handed horseshoe track at Jebel Ali, known for its notorious steep European style finish.
“It is a very unique track and I think patience is a virtue here,” advised the former British apprentice champion. “If you are a bit too keen to get on with things the hill will test you out and your horse will tire at the end. So you’ve got to be really patient.”
Ffrench was speaking at a press conference to announce the sponsors for Friday’s red-letter day at Jebel Ali where Shadwell and Derrinstrown Stud support the pair of feature races. The other five races on the card will be sponsored by Emirates NBD, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Al Shafar Investment and Ascana.
Meanwhile, ERA representative Yasir Mabrouk, talked up the big-race weekend at Jebel Ali.
“With prize money in excess of Dh1 million it is the richest day on the calendar at Jebel Ali Racecourse,” he said. “The races are known to attract horses of very high quality and this year is no different.
“The Sprint has a lot of quality and quite a few of its winners have gone on to win the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup night — like State City (2003) who still holds the record for the race (57.34), which has proven hard to beat.
“Overall Friday’s card looks very competitive.”