Woodworth gets his wish
In his own words, Benny Woodworth said “it was a chance of a lifetime”. And you had better believe it.
Woodworth, who is supposed to ride in Singapore when the new racing season kicks off on Jan 2, has now put that on hold.
Instead, for the next few months, he will ply his trade in Dubai, where he hopes to make an impression.
Yes, Woodworth has got a licence to ride at the famous Meydan racetrack and he is relishing the opportunity.
But, hold your horses. Just what brought about that lucrative contract which has the Ipoh-born jockey in seventh heaven?
He explained: “I decided after cutting short my Mauritius contract last month to holiday in Dubai with my family.
“It was to be a fun time for us. The wife could do some shopping and visit the touristy sights and I could visit Meydan to see what the excitement was all about.”
It was while he was at the world-famous racing establishment that Woodworth happened to bump into trainer Mike de Kock.
That legendary trainer from South Africa, who has saddled about 3,800 winners in an illustrious career, knew of Woodworth.
He made him an offer he just could not refuse.
“Out of the blue, he asked if I would like to ride in Dubai,” said Woodworth. “I mean, I was in awe of the man. He’s a racing legend and there he was asking me if I wanted to ride for him in the United Arab Emirates.
“Wow! I was floored. It was a dream come true. Of course, I said ‘yes’ and that was it.
“At that moment, all plans I had were pushed back. I applied for a riding licence and got it.”
From then on, and that was about a fortnight ago, Woodworth has been riding trackwork and he is waiting to get legged up on one of de Kock’s horses in a race.
With the Dubai World Cup Carnival – worth a staggering $55 million in prize money – coming up in about a month’s time and stretching into March, Woodworth gets a chance that other jockeys can only dream about.
“Hopefully, de Kock’s horses will be good enough to qualify for the races which make up the carnival,” he said. "And, hopefully, he will put me on some of those mounts."
“The racing here in Dubai is something special. The racetrack is awesome and the horses stabled here enjoy something like seven-star facilities. It is hard to describe and, all I can say is that I consider myself very, very lucky. I am already 48 years old and, here I am, getting ready to race at Meydan in Dubai.”
And, coming so soon after he was involved in a horrific race fall, which claimed the life of another jockey, Nooresh Juglall, Woodworth knows he has plenty to be thankful for.
“That was sad. Really sad,” he said. Woodworth was injured in that accident in May and he was sidelined for four months.
He returned to racing in September. In the two months before leaving Mauritius, he rode six winners. “Indeed, my last ride in Mauritius was a winning ride,” he said.
He left the Indian Ocean island nation soon after. With his family in tow, he headed for – what was to be – some rest and recreation in Dubai.
Never in his wildest dreams did he expect things to turn out the way they did. But, somehow, fate dealt him a solid hand and he is not about to let it slip.
Woodworth plans to ride in Dubai throughout the period of the World Cup Carnival. Then he will return to Kranji.
“After March, it is too hot to race in Dubai,” he said. “And my licence is only for the span of the Carnival.
“So I will be back in Singapore right after that. I still enjoy riding at Kranji. Indeed, some of my best racing moments have been in Singapore. It’s a great place.”
That is good news for his fans. But, for now, his focus is on the task ahead. And that is, to make the best use of this great opportunity.
Indeed, that is his New Year wish. We hope it comes true.