A young Bahraini jockey, who spent the summer gaining valuable work experience at one of England’s most famous stables has just returned to Bahrain with his sights set on forging a successful career in horseracing in the United Kingdom.
For the past three months, Ebrahim Nader, 21, was a work rider and apprentice at Hampshire’s fabled Kingsclere Park House Stables, training under the watchful eye of Andrew Balding, one of Britain’s most successful horse-trainers.
“This has been a terrific experience for me,” Nader told the GDN. “Andrew and his wife, Anna Lisa, have been absolutely wonderful to me. They looked after me so well and I have been able to develop my skills so much as a jockey in these past few months.”
The Baldings were also pleased to host the young jockey, Anna Lisa told the GDN by phone from Kingsclere.
“He is literally the most smiley, wonderful, kind and brilliant horseman,” she said. “We were very, very lucky to have him at Kingsclere for three months.”
Nader, who laughed as he described how he declared to his family at age nine that he wanted to be a jockey, loved horses from a very young age because his father owned a stable and he started riding with him when he was big enough to sit in a saddle on his own.
“Oh, I was – and still am – mad about horses,” Nader exclaimed. “I loved riding, watching races, I loved being around horses and it seemed the most natural thing to me to want to be a jockey.”
By the time he was 17, Nader had been training to be a jockey for five years. After becoming an apprentice at the Al Asoo Racing Stable, the young jockey rode his first winner in 2019 and soon received an offer from Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, son of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, to ride for him.
“I am truly grateful to Shaikh Isa for giving me such a great opportunity,” Nader said. “Because of his support and encouragement, I had a brilliant season in 2020 when I won seven races. It is also because of his kind decision to sponsor me that I got to go to Kingsclere.”
“Balding trains horses for Shaikh Isa and was very keen to see what I could bring to his yard,” Nader added.
“By the time I went to Kingsclere, I had ridden 30 winners,” he continued. “And, last year, I rode the most races at the Bahrain Turf Club, of which I am a member. And I was also invited to join the Bahrain Jockey Academy which was set up last year.”
At Kingsclere, Nader wasted no time in settling into his new daily routine.
“I woke up at five in the morning, went to the horses and my day would be made,” he said, laughing again. “I finished riding by noon and then, it would be time for a break. Lunch was on the house and then, at 3.30pm, I would go back to the horses, feed them, brush them, take them to the walkers and wrap up by 5.45pm.”
His routine at Kingsclere was different from the one he follows in Bahrain, Nader added.
“Here, I head out at 3.30am and then again at 4.30pm, with a longer break in between because of the heat,” he explained.
Nader also made friends with the other work riders and apprentices at Kingsclere.
“I made a lot of friends. It was fun being with them,” he said. “We played football, went swimming and went to the cinema. We were like one big family.”
And earlier this year, Nader got the chance to dress up in a top hat and tails to go to the races at Ascot.
“That was truly memorable,” he remembered. “The experience of a lifetime! I also went to New-market. Again, it was a fantastic experience.”
Being at Kingsclere also gave Nader the chance to meet, and seek advice from, several leading jockeys, among them Andre Atzeni and Oisin Murphy who both ride for Balding and are consid-ered to be two of the best jockeys in England.
“They are great,” he said. “I am so fortunate to have met them and other champion jockeys over here. I’ve had the opportunity to ride with them, to get tips from them.”
Now that he is back, Nader will have to start preparing for the new season which begins in November and is looking forward to having his family show up to support him, as they have always done.
“It’s great to have them around,” he said. “My parents always show up and I have four brothers and two sisters who are also always in attendance. It’s good to have their support.”
After the Bahraini horseracing season concludes early next year, Nader hopes to head back to England – initially to Kingsclere, before going on to do some actual racing.
“That has always been my dream,” he said. “I hope to become a champion jockey in Britain like the ones I admire and met. And, of course, it will be great to go back to Kingsclere and be reunited with Anna Lisa and Andrew again!”
The Baldings are also looking forward to welcoming Nader back again next year, Anna Lisa said.
“I really hope – and I am speaking on behalf of the whole team – that he comes back again next season,” she said.