Earlier in the year Stephan Heiler was talking to a friend that runs a jockey school in Germany. His friend just happened to mention the European Association of Racing Schools (EARS) and their work to create special races for amateur jockeys. Amateur races have been organized and run in places such as Kentucky, France, and Abu Dhabi. As he learned more, Heiler decided he wanted to get involved so he could give Canadian jockeys a chance to participate and expose them to broader opportunities. He approached Pooli asking if she would be interested, she was, and now both of them will be representing Canada as they head to Abu Dhabi.
Pooli, a native of Kamloops BC, attended the Olds College Exercise Rider & Jockey Program in the second year that the program was run. She rode her first race in 2011 in Grande Prairie and has been blazing up the track ever since. This year she impressively finished second in the Northlands Park meet jockey standings with 75 wins and was in the top three with fifty percent of her mounts. In Abu Dhabi, it will be her first time riding in an Arabian horse race. Pooli says that she is not doing anything special to prepare for the different breed, as they do everything the same as in a thoroughbred race; she was told they are just a bit slower than the thoroughbreds. After her trip, Pooli plans on heading to Turf Paradise where she will ride for the winter.
Among the rules to participate in the amateur races is that you have to have taken part in a jockey school and still be riding as an apprentice. Being a graduate of the Olds College Exercise Rider & Jockey Program qualified Pooli to attend, but sometime after her trip overseas, she will be losing her bug. This means that she will not be able to participate and represent Canada in future amateur races. Heiler, working along with the HRA, has now become the director of the International Jockey School Program Canada. His goal is to attract more students to the Olds College program, the only program of its kind in Canada, and mentor them as they go on to be successful jockeys. He would eventually like to be able to send one or two apprentices every year to the various races, promoting Canadian racing and creating new opportunities for the jockeys themselves. Heiler is also actively working on creating more of these races in Germany and Canada.
The HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayad Al Nayhan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival in Abu Dhabi, which runs in early November, was primarily created to promote the Arab breed and features Arab racing. Festival organizers also want to promote female riders and have races designated just for female jockeys. Over the course of the event it is estimated that 100 riders from around the world will participate, most of them being female. Pooli’s race, the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak EARS Apprentice Jockey Race will be run on November 10th at 8:30 am MST. For more information and video of the race go to www.sheikhmansoorfestival.com