Frankie Dettori, Joao Moreira, Christophe Lemaire and Ryan Moore are among the world-renowned jockeys in action at King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Saturday evening, but the achievements of Uruguayan jockey Hector Lazo are certainly worthy of the global stage.
Lazo is making the 25,000 km round trip from Montevideo to Riyadh with his ability coming under the radar slightly. The 35-year-old partnered his first winner as a professional jockey at the age of 24, but has since managed to ride over 1,500 winners.
The biggest one of all may be just over the horizon if Ricardo Colombo’s Loreley (BRZ) could win the Saudi Derby presented by Boutique Group.
There is strong hint of South American flavour this weekend, with the Moreira-ridden Es-Unico (BRZ) also taking his place in the race for trainer Antonio Cintra.
Lazo does not have the same global experience as some of his colleagues, but returns to Riyadh with knowledge from last year, when he finished sixth in the Saudi Derby aboard Colombo’s Nordic Star.
“Loreley won the first leg of the Triple Crown in Uruguay, so I am very much looking forward to riding him on Saturday,” Lazo said while watching track work on Thursday morning.
“Loreley is starting the race from barrier number one, but this is not so important to him because he is a fast horse and can run from the front or close to the front.
“It is important to me as a jockey to be here in Saudi Arabia and to ride in races like this and in Dubai during their Carnival. I know that Loreley is running against good horses, but I know that he too is a good horse and we are ready for a very good race.”
Cutting a relaxed figure at trackwork, Lazo is an unassuming character who keeps a low profile, but his determination to become the best jockey in his native land is unquestionable.
From a young age, he was drawn to racing by his father, Raul, who himself was a horse trainer. School was something of a distraction as his focus was on working with horses and riding in pony races. This was a route that led him to major success.
Growing up in the small, quiet town of Villa Del Carmen, Lazo could be forgiven for thinking that the opportunity on such a major stage to win such lucrative prize money would only ever be a dream.
His work ethic saw him reach a milestone of 1,000 winners in his native country in half the time of his friend Carlos Sebastian Mendez and is notable in any racing jurisdiction, especially when racing in Uruguay is only on two to three times a week.
Other achievements at home include a record number of winners in a season, five championship wins at Maronas Racecourse and a further three championships at Las Piedras.
This weekend, Lazo will test his undoubted ability against the very best and his talents may well be about to gain much more exposure as he considers teaming up with Colombo at Gulfstream Park in the coming months.
“I enjoy it a lot to ride against jockeys of this calibre,” Lazo said. “This weekend I ride against Frankie Dettori and at the Dubai World Cup Carnival last year against Irad Ortiz, Christophe Lemaire and these world-class jockeys, and that is emotional for me to compete and stay with them.
“I have a plan to go with Loreley to Dubai for the UAE Derby after this weekend and then Ricardo is going to bring horses to Gulfstream Park and has invited me to go with him. I am going to go there for a couple of months and maybe, who knows, I might stay there for a season or the rest of my career.”