Author: Duane Fonseca

THE ONLY thing Adrie de Vries can think of doing after his career in racing ends is starting a new one... in racing! “Becoming a trainer was always my plan, but my career really took off only a few years ago and I’m still enjoying riding at the moment,” De Vries told Al Adiyat. “I always said I would ride until I was 50. Then I took another year and I feel now I will take another year and that’s how I do it. I take it step by step, year by year and there will be a time when I say it’s enough because I would like to train horses as well.

“I enjoy training horses, but right now it’s very difficult for me to find that point where I can say I’ve had enough. But it will definitely be between now and another two to three years.” Not one to look far ahead into the future, De Vries admits he does not know how he would go about getting his training career on the road.

He just knows it’s something he has to do. And for now that’s good enough. “There are no plans on how I will take that forward just yet, but I plan to settle down with a nice little stable somewhere; it doesn’t matter where. I have a lot of experience and knowledge gained from my riding and that will definitely help when it comes to training,” said the 51yo Dutch ace.

Born and raised on his parents’ farm in Heerlen, in The Netherlands, De Vries nurtured a deep respect and love for horses early on. “My father was a racehorse owner and we used to have horses and ponies on our small farm. We had a lot of horses around, so I grew up with horses and I started racing ponies when I was eight in Holland. I started race riding when I was 15 and had my first winner when I was 15 as well,” De Vries explained. Like a river flows to the sea, De Vries’ passion drew him into the big league.

In time, he started to race for top owners during racing’s erstwhile flourish in The Netherlands and was crowned Champion Jockey over a dozen times, having enjoyed five Dutch Derby successes in the process. “I was Champion Jockey 13-14 times in Holland and then the prize money started reducing and so there was less and less racing and that’s when I decided to go to Germany,” De Vries explains.

“It took a few seasons to get going in Germany but eventually I was riding for big stables there and riding big winners. I was Champion Jockey in Germany once and runner-up a lot of times because I always chose to go and ride in the UAE else I could have won more titles.” De Vries moved to Germany at the turn of the century after years spent in the significantly lower strata of Dutch racing.

It is clearly a decision he rues to this day. The 2014 German Champion Jockey added: “It’s a long career I’ve had and I took a long time to get going in terms of international racing. I stuck around in Holland for a very long time, which was maybe a kind of mistake. Maybe I should have left for Germany or some other country earlier. My career picked up really nicely once I went to Germany and the last ten years were probably the best years of my career.”

Moving to Germany was a step up in class and De Vries was up for it. In a few years he had laid his hands on a first Group One prize when winning the 2005 Italian Oaks with the Hans Albert Blume-schooled Gyreka.

He went on to win some of Germany’s biggest races including the 2009 Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden with Getaway, the 2010 Group 1 Rheinland Pokal with the Saeed bin Suroor-schooled Campanologist, three Group 1 Preis von Europas with Meandre, Empoli and Windstoss in 2013, 2014 and 2017, the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin in 2017 with Dschingis Secret and the 149th running of the Group 1 Deutsches Derby in 2018 with Weltstar.

Plenty more top level victories followed across Europe with him nicking France’s Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet and Italy’s Group 1 Premio Longines Lydia Tesio. Both were won in 2015 with the Karl Burke-schooled Odeliz. De Vries has enjoyed enormous success on UAE shores too winning the Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship twice with Jamr and Light The Lights in 2014 and 2018 respectively, and a fair few wins at the Dubai World Cup Carnival over the years, including the 2020 Group 3 Burj Nahaar and the 2018 Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal with Salute The Soldier and Jordan Sport, both trained by Fawzi Nass; the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold with Bin Suroor’s Prize Money and this year’s Group 2 Singspiel Stakes with David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters.

De Vries has been equally successful in Purebred Arabian racing across Europe and the UAE and was twice victorious on the Dubai World Cup programme in the only Purebred Arabian contest on that card, the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic. He won that race in 2010 and 2012 when guiding Jaafer and TM Fred Texas.

Additionally, De Vries has a pair of Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge wins to show on his resume, which includes this year’s first round victory aboard Jean- Claude Pecout’s Brraq. Asked to pick his career defining moment, De Vries rolled back through the years to the 2012 Royal Ascot meeting where he won the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes with the Jens Hirschberger-trained Energizer.

“I think that was the highlight for me. Winning at Royal Ascot felt amazing and if I were to pick another top career win it would have to be the 2018 German Derby with Markus Klug’s Weltstar,” De Vries said. “I had to wait a long time to do that. I had ridden a lot of races, but unfortunately I never won.

Then, three years ago I won the German Derby. “In the UAE I’ve been well supported by trainers like Fawzi Nass for whom I won the Burj Nahaar and the Mahab Al Shimaal. I remember horses like Top Score and Prize Money trained by Saeed bin Suroor and my biggest Thoroughbred win in the UAE would have to be the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold on Super Saturday in 2017 with Prize Money.

“The Kahayla Classic wins were good too and so were the President’s Cup victories, I actually won the inaugural one in 1993, so it’s been a good career here and abroad. “The racing here is high quality and I’ve always enjoyed every moment of it. It’s nice to enjoy the different tracks, nice weather and the competitive racing at the same time, so it’s actually very, very nice.

The first time when I came here was when I was about 17 and that’s like 34 years ago so I’ve seen the place develop into one of the nicest racing venues around the world.” De Vries will celebrate his 52nd birthday in July, but his desire to succeed at the topmost level is intact and he does have a long time goal he hopes to tick off before he calls time on his riding career.

“I want to have a winner on the Dubai World Cup day. I have won the Kahayla Classic twice before and I know my chances of winning the Dubai World Cup itself are very slim, but I want to win a race on that card and not just on an Arabian,” De Vries said. “I take things year by year.

I don’t think I’ll ride until I am 60, but for now I am still enjoying it and as long as I pick up nice rides I plan to keep on riding. Things are not getting any worse for me which is good and I am really enjoying my job every day.” When that stops, it will be time to switch roles.