Author: Duane Fonseca

He is no stranger to the UAE, having ridden here as an apprentice 15 seasons ago, but now William Lee is planning to put that erstwhile knowledge to good use as he hopes to take his UAE career ‘onwards and upwards’. Lee flew out of the gates on the opening day of the season at Jebel Ali as he registered a double on a card where his chief employer, Helal Al Alawi, of National Stables in Al Ain, collected a treble. With just three rounds of racing contested so far, the jockeys’ championship race seems to be picking up with early blows being traded by the riders plying their trade here. Lee knows only too well he has his work cut out as Al Alawi’s first choice rider. And he is up for the challenge. “I made a very good start and am delighted to have a beginning like this because it is not often you get a double on the opening day of the season so I am very happy because it is vital to start well,” Lee told Al Adiyat. Lee flew in on the eve of the start to the UAE season on 26 October and spent the first two weeks jetting in and out of the Emirates as he had riding commitments in his native Ireland to honour.

But, despite the lack of preparation, he was able to hit the ground running, winning a maiden first with Cape Of Eagles and then claiming a handicap success with stable companion Silchester. He said he just knew what was needed to be done. “I flew in a day before the meeting and then flew back to Ireland after the races for a few days because that’s the way it was going to be initially until the season ended in Ireland,” Lee said. “But I am very happy with the way things have gone and I thank God I have a few winners on the board because that always helps you settle in quickly. “Not much has changed really and I knew pretty much what needed to be done.

The horses seem fit and in good form. I just went there and did my bit.” Lee was not unfamiliar with the Jebel Ali surface having been given limited rides during the 2003/04 season during his apprenticeship stint at trainer Erwan Charpy’s yard. It wasn’t his first double up the hill either. He had claimed one during his apprentice days when he rode same day winners aboard Sylvante and Albadou for trainers Mussabeh Al Mheiri and Doug Watson respectively. He rode two more winners that year: Meshty for Mazin Al Kurdi, also at Jebel Ali, and Lord Of Moray for Peter Brette at Nad Al Sheba. “Not much has changed since I rode out here as an apprentice, so I am not new to the UAE,” said Lee who also had a placed effort aboard Moviesta in the Listed Dubawi Stakes in 2017.

“I have a bit of riding experience here and rode that double so I was really happy to get the call to come back and ride here and I am very excited for the season ahead. Hopefully it will all be onwards and upwards from here. “I will be riding mainly for Hilal and I am very honoured and looking forward to the season ahead.” Lee is confident and feels he has a good bond with the up and coming Emirati handler. “He has told me that he has a lot of good horses to run and most of them are in very good form. I’ve ridden Purebred Arabians before from time to time as well but this is going to be a new experience and I am really looking forward to it.

“Hopefully, I can get a few nice horses from Hilal. I think he is a good trainer and he can turn his hand to anything. “So if he trains Thoroughbreds or Purebred Arabians and if they’re a good horse then Hilal will get the best out of them so we will have a good year.”