Quijano, a Life-changing Experience

DUBAI — Quijano’s exceptional performance in the 2007 Dubai International Racing Carnival not only put him on the map of international racing, but also gave his now 44 year-old work rider Ilke Hildebrand a chance to change her life forever.

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Published: Thu 25 Mar 2010, 12:46 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Nov 2023, 10:02 AM

A former apprentice jockey to German top trainer Adolf Wöhler, who is the father of current champion trainer Andreas Wöhler, Ilke rode thirteen winners before deciding that it might not be the right career choice for her. Working at a local bookmaker in Cologne, she continued to ride out for Peter Schiergen who offered her the chance to look after Quijano in Dubai in 2007.

“I saved up all my holidays and every penny to go to Dubai and look after Quijano,” remembers Ilke, affectionately known as “Ille”. “And when he started winning I said jokingly to Peter that I should deserve a position as his assistant. He didn’t really need an assistant but then his stable filled up and he had about a hundred horses and so he asked me to become his assistant.”

Since that day, when the Acatenango son was one of the most talked about horses of the Carnival, Ilke has never left his side. The now eight-year-old has taken her around the world to Canada, America, Italy, Hong Kong and again and again to Dubai.

“Thanks to Quijano I have seen so many places in the world, places I would have probably never visited,” smiles Ilke. “And I met so many amazing people. Everyone is so friendly and I remember one year the English trainer Dandy Nicholls came here with some of his owners and they asked if they could take a picture with Quijano. That is how famous he is! I couldn’t believe it.”

Quijano will have his fourth start in the Dubai Sheema Classic, sponsored by China Guangsha this year and Ilke says: “He is a wonderful horse, but at eight, he must now be considered a grandfather. One has to look after him,” she adds with affection resonating in her voice.

“I do think he knows me. I mean we spend so much time together. I was on my own with him for three months in Canada and also here in Dubai. But Quijano loves people. He never puts his ears back, except when you brush him too hard. He likes the softer approach. He also is a real gentleman on the track. He might have given you an odd buck when he was four, but he is real pleasure to ride.”

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