It’s all horses, horses, horses with Adrie De Vries… no wonder he’s such an accomplished rider | Topics: Meydan, Saudi Cup, Dubai World Cup
It’s hard to imagine a more relaxed character than Adrie De Vries. In life and on the racetrack, he rarely seems disheveled. In the stables in the morning, he is very at home. As Fawzi Nass’ first jockey in Dubai, the Dutchman is extremely practical, a role he loves.
âHorses are my life,â he says, taking a seat outside Nass’s base at Desert Stables, where he spends more time than the trainer, who also has a base in Bahrain.
âI’m here almost every morning, unless they’ve been working the day before and they’re just jogging,â says De Vries. âIt gives me a day off. But I like to do it. I like to see the horses every day, it’s great. I help a little for everything; we’re talking about which races to choose, and it’s nice to be involved.
A 52-year-old De Vries has been riding in the United Arab Emirates since the early 1990s. However, he arrived in the country even earlier than that, when he was only a teenager.
âI came here first with a little Arab for Cheikh Mansour. I was 17, had never taken a plane before, and I traveled on horseback to Abu Dhabi – 35 years ago – and it was my first experience of the Emirates.
It has come a long way since then, counting 140 local winners in around 1,400 races. It’s not a bad strike rate, but he’s a talented and very experienced jockey, having started racing when he was just 15 years old. It was in Holland, but most of his winners came to Germany, where he is attached to the Yasmin Almenrader team during the summer. It is currently ranked 56th in the world in the CVR ranking of jockeys.
âI started going to Germany in the 1980s because there were fewer and fewer races in Holland,â he says. âI’m based in the Netherlands, but I live near the border, so it’s not too far from the main tracks in Germany.
âMy main team at the moment is Yasmin Almenrader, and I’ve been there for about three years. I had a big job with Markus Klug for four years before that. I’ve raced for most of the big teams in Germany so I’m very happy with that.
His biggest success in Germany came in 2018, when he won the G1 Deutsches Derby on Weltstar for Klug – “It took me a long time to win the German Derby, so it was a big relief” – but there were a lot of great successes in the race; little more in sight than when Energizing, coached by Jens Hirschberger, escaped with the G3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2012.
âEnergizer was a nice surprise; this winning horse at Ascot. It was one of my best experiences to have a winner there, âhe recalls.
Energizer then joined Godolphin and never won again, including in three starts in Dubai.
His jockey has done much better and has much to hope for this season. The current star of the Nass team is the winner of the G1 Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Hi soldier, who finished last season with an honorable fifth place at the Dubai World Cup behind Mystical guide.
“[Maktoum Challenge Round 3] was my first Group 1 thoroughbred winner in Dubai, so this is definitely the highlight of my stay here, âhe says. “It’s very important for me to have big winners here because Fawzi has been a big supporter in recent years, and Cheikh Nasser [Al Khalifa, co-owner] invests a lot of money in the game.
Salute The Soldier will head to the World Cup again, likely via a trip to attempt to plunder the riches of the Saudi Cup. âHe gets stronger and stronger every year,â reports his jockey. âWe’re just going to take it easy on him now because we don’t want him to peak too soon; the biggest arrive in February and March. He’s just starting to do some quick work now.
Salute the Soldier could be joined while in Saudi Arabia by exciting new recruit Purebred Arabian RB Rich Lyke me, who made his local debut in G2 Bani Yas in Meydan.
âFawzi had been looking for Arabs for some time and it seems he found one that suited him,â says De Vries. âHe was talking about the Saudi Cup [meeting] for him; it’s close to the World Cup, but maybe Arabs can handle travel better than thoroughbreds.
De Vries’ association with Nass dates back some time, and the pair share a laid back outlook.
“[2012 G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner] Krypton factor was one of the first horses I rode for him [in 2017], “he said.” We get along very well and it’s a pleasure to drive for him – he doesn’t give a lot of instruction and he knows the game. He’s a great sportsman and he can accept losing because ‘he understands sport.
De Vries clearly has a deep understanding too. Few races do better from the back of the peloton, where he has somehow mastered the art of squeezing between his rivals. He’s a real rider and won’t be quitting the sport anytime soon, even though he will end up hanging up his boots.
âI always take it year after year,â he says. “I’m in good shape, but the weight [his minimum is 56 kilos] has always been a bit of a problem, because I’m quite tall. But that’s not a big deal, and I don’t have any back issues, anything like that. As long as nice horses come along, like Salute The Soldier, then that’s a lot of fun. I still love the game.
Surely, however, the training must be in the plans?
âI would love to,â he said. âI have always been interested in training. Of course after I stop riding I will continue to do something in the sport and training could be one thing. I would love to have a small stable here in Dubai. That would be great.”
If he takes any training he will likely approach it with the same calm and cheerful demeanor he has had throughout his riding career, to which he remains dedicated. “What do you do when you are not working” is not a valid question here.
âIt’s my life, really. I watch the races, I’m interested in breedingâ¦ they’re just horses, really, âexplains the jockey, who with his wife Lorna has two sons, Liam and Mike, 26 and 23 years old. âMy wife and I have a few yearlings with a friend which is exciting. They’re in Germany now, so it’s kind of a hobby.
So that’s really all the horses for Adrie De Vries. But when you have such an affinity with them, it is hardly surprising.