Dubai World Cup: De Vries embraces ageless mindset in pursuit of his dream

At 53, the Dutchman aims to become the oldest winner of the centrepiece onboard Salute The Soldier


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Adrie de Vries.
Adrie de Vries.

Published: Fri 10 Mar 2023, 3:16 AM

Last updated: Sat 11 Mar 2023, 1:09 PM

When Frankie Dettori won the 2022 Dubai World Cup aboard Country Grammer at the age of 51, not only did he make history as the oldest jockey to win the $12 million contest, but he also delivered a powerful statement that caught the attention of the racing world.

The Italian demonstrated that if you have hunger and passion, your motivation will help you overcome the odds and achieve even the impossible.

Even as Dettori returns to his happy hunting ground at Meydan Racecourse this month, hoping to rewrite the record books one more time, there is another jockey lurking who can steal his thunder and further rewrite the record he set 12 months ago.

Should he continue to ride the crest of a wave that saw him snatch two major victories on Super Saturday, last week’s dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup, Adrie de Vries is set to claim his own place in the record books.

A youthful 53, the classy Dutch rider has shown no signs of slowing down, and on the contrary, appears to be at the peak of his silken powers.

“I’m having more fun than ever, and when you’re having fun, things happen,” De Vries told the Khaleej Times.

The multiple champion jockey, who is fondly referred to as the “Flying Dutchman," announced his intentions during Super Saturday when he partnered Go Soldier, Go and Salute The Soldier to victory in the Al Bastakiya and Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge (Round 3).

Both horses will be aimed at the $2.5m UAE Derby and the $12m Dubai World Cup respectively.

“It's every jockey’s dream to win a big race on World Cup night,” De Vries said. “I’ve won the Kahayla Classic twice (TM Fred Texas in 2012 and Jaafer 2010) but I’m still hungry for more. Winning a World Cup will be a dream come true.

“But even if I win any race on the day, it would be great.”

The humility that he displays makes De Vries more likeable and as a result, he is also the go-to rider for many a trainer. From Dubai’s Saeed bin Suroor to South African great Mike De Kock and highly-regarded German handler Markus Klug, he has served them all well.

However, it is with Bahraini owner-trainer Fawzi Nass that De Vries seems to have found his perfect match. Together, they have forged a strong bond of friendship that is built on confidence and trust.

He explains: “I’m not sure why they turn to me, but I can best describe myself as an allrounder. I have a good thing about horses, I can judge a horse and I understand horses pretty well having been around them most of my life.

“Yes, I’ve been fortunate to ride for some of the best trainers in the world and I am grateful for their support as well.

“It was during a stint in Bahrain that I got to know Fawzi and the relationship just got stronger and stronger and I was riding some nice winners for him as well. Wins like Jordan Sport, who won the Mahab Al Shimaal in 2018, and Salute the Soldier, who has won six times in Dubai, have further strengthened our partnership.

“Fawzi is a fantastic man to ride for,” added De Vries. “He lets you get on with it and do your job. He doesn’t give too many orders. The great thing about him is he’s a great horseman himself and a good friend. A gentleman. We have a long relationship and let’s hope it continues in the future.

“With people like Fawzi, you learn a lot,” he adds.”It’s a great experience when you’re sitting on horses, riding for a good trainer. It’s special.”

De Vries recalls how it all began and how he, and his family, have come to love the UAE.

“I came here first, 35 years ago, when a friend sold a little Arabian horse to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and Minister of Presidential Affairs).” he says. “I was 17 years old at the time.”

“I liked the UAE from the start. I like the sport here, I love the country and I love the nice weather. My family enjoys coming over here as well..

“But, more importantly, you get a lot of respect and support from owners and trainers in the UAE and you get to ride plenty of good horses,” he adds.

“I enjoy this lifestyle and the way they treat horses over here. It’s always been a great experience to come here. At this point, I’m taking it year by year and hoping that the good horses keep coming along in the future. I can see myself riding for as long as I can.”

The flying Dutchman

  • Adrie de Vries was born on 27 July 1969 in Heerlen, Netherlands
  • Currently 53 years old, he is one of the oldest active jockeys in the world together with Alex Solis (58yrs) and Mike Smith (57yrs)
  • De Vries started his career in 1985 and rode his first winner at Duindigt with Go Go
  • He is a 12-time Dutch champion jockey with a total of 614 winners
  • His biggest success came in Germany in 2018, when he landed the G1 Deutsches Derby on Weltstar
  • He has over 2,500 career victories to his name
  • De Vries first came to the UAE 35 years ago as a 17-year-old, when he travelled with a horse to Abu Dhabi
  • He has won two championships in Qatar 2008-09 and 2009-10 while his total number of victories in the Middle East is over 300
  • In 2012, he partnered Energizer to win the G3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot.
  • He has enjoyed major successes in Holland, Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE

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