Friday, March 25, 2011
J J The Jet Plane aims high in Al Quoz Sprint
Dubai, UAE, March 25, 2011 - He's a rightful headline act - a six time Group One winner, three-time South African Champion, and the second highest-ranked turf sprinter in the world. Deeds and titles add significant expectations to a runner but the connections of Group Two Al Quoz Sprint favourite J J The Jet Plane remain notably upbeat ahead of Saturday's race.
Arriving in Dubai in mid-December following his victory in the Gr One Hong Kong International Sprint, the South African seven year old gelding had just two runs during the Dubai International Racing Carnival: an unplaced start over 1200m on the All-Weather on February 17, before a dominant win back on the turf in the US$175,000 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise on March 10.
Houdalakis has a long history with J J The Jet Plane. Having trained the horse with success in South Africa as a two year old, the owners decided to campaign the horse overseas. Houdalakis felt he didn't have the experience required and handed his multiple Group One winner over to globetrotting South African trainer Mike de Kock.
After some initial success, J J The Jet Plane lost form and found his way back to Houdalakis in South Africa. The rest - including the revival of the horse's talents and another three Group One trophies for the cabinet - is, as they say, history.
One member of the J J The Jet Plane team particularly enthusiastic about the horse’s prospects in Saturday's race is regular work rider and the travelling foreman Everisto Nyambo.
"If he doesn’t win by three or five lengths on Saturday then the jockey hasn’t ridden him properly given how he feels right now," Everisto states candidly.
"When you ride [JJ] out in the morning and come onto the backstretch at the 400m he starts to pull and is hard to hold. After the work you can feel how happy he is. He jumps around and shows you how much he is enjoying it. You know he's ready."
An integral part of the J J The Jet Plane success story since 2006, Everisto is fiercely proud of the horse he takes care of and is unashamedly bullish about his charge's race chances.
"He really likes it here and is even better than he was in Hong Kong when he won. He's a lovely horse; he is really kind. I treat him like a son. Yes he bites too much but you know - he is just playing!"
JJ The Jet Plane has provided the former Zimbabwean National with more than a weighty scrapbook of success stories to give to his children - he has given this South African work rider a valuable window to the world.
The first to admit that the glittering backdrop of Dubai is a starkly different backdrop to the horse yard where the then 12 year old used to muck out boxes to help his three brothers during school holidays, Everisto says it is "really amazing" to work the horse on a track where so many star gallopers also train.
The now 37 year old father of two who, as a child, taught himself to ride on young unbroken thoroughbreds with only a headcollar and lead as his 'bridle' admits that he had never been outside his home town before he became involved with this horse.
"Now I have been travelling with J J since last August when he went into quarantine for Hong Kong and I am with him every day. I am able to see the world and it has been fantastic. There are lots of places in Dubai to visit. It's lots of fun. I feel like a kid!"
Everisto says that there will be a lot of pressure on the owners and trainers of the horse on Saturday but for him: "Well, it will be a fantastic day!"
"This horse means everything to me," he says. "This journey has been so exciting. People in South Africa know who I am because of this horse. After Dubai we will head to Singapore then hopefully Ascot. This horse is taking all of us places we have never been before. It's a challenge but the horse is our hope."
Read more articles in the Meydan category.