ADRIE DE VRIES: “I STILL GET A LOT PLEASURE FROM RIDING”
Adrie de Vries, the most famous jockey in the Netherlands, saw his career take on a new aspect a few years ago, thanks to Purebred Arabians. Having won the biggest races in this discipline (Emir's Sword, Kahayla Classic), the 47 year old jockey looks back over his introduction to these horses and their relationship since.
The French Purebred Arabian. – Did you always want to be a jockey?
Adrie de Vries. – Yes, I never even considered doing anything else. I grew up around horses, as my father was an owner. I began riding when I was 6 or 7 years old. It’s all I ever wanted to do.
You ride for the majority of the season in Germany, but you are a regular visitor to the Gulf. Is it the competition that drives you to travel so often?
Of course, it’s always a good thing to be riding against the best jockeys in the world. I was Champion Jockey in the Netherlands for thirteen years, but when I went to Germany I really improved due to the other jockeys, and riding in the Gulf was a good way to improve my riding against the best jockeys.
However it wasn’t in the Gulf, but in France that you came across Purebred Arabian horses, when winning the Coupe d’Europe with Drug…
That was a long time ago! I was very young. Drug was a Russian horse, difficult to ride, as were a lot of the Arabians at the time. They have changed a lot since. I remember that he had a really beautiful head. That marked the beginning of my career with these horses. That victory was pivotal, and allowed me to be introduced to a number of Arab countries. The owner of the horse went on to bring me to Abu Dhabi, then to Dubai, where I return every year, as with Qatar.
Do Arabian horses today still remain different to ride, even though they have changed?
Yes, they are still a bit sensitive. They can always do something unexpected, and you can’t totally trust them, especially if they hit the front too soon. All the jockeys are in agreement that a Thoroughbred is easier to ride. However, I see it as a challenge.
Richard Hills said, in an interview, that once jockey knew how to ride a Purebred Arabian as well a Thoroughbred, he was a better jockey. Do you agree with him?
Absolutely. Arabian horses don’t make the work easy for you, but if you can handle it, you are a more competent jockey.
You have ridden a lot of Purebred Arabians, but if you could just only mention one…
Jaafer! On the dirt, he was just extraordinary… He had so much class. He is without a doubt, the best Arabian horse I have ridden.
You are now 48 years old. Are you thinking about your next career move, perhaps as a trainer?
Becoming a trainer was always my plan, but my career really took off only a few years ago. Ten years earlier, I was preparing for it, but now I’m 48 and still a jockey! I still get a lot of pleasure from riding. I think I will keep going a bit yet. I am not yet sure what I will do after, but training could well be an option.
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