This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on March 29, 2019
Whanganui trackwork rider Lizzy Stubbington is at the centre of an international assault on world racing riches in the United Arab Emirates.
Since December last year Stubbington has been pinching herself after receiving the call up to care for two thoroughbred racehorses campaigning in Dubai, including one invited to run in the world's richest race, the US$12, million Dubai World Cup run at 5.40am tomorrow New Zealand time.
For much of her adult life Stubbington has worked with racehorses around the world and when the call came from a trainer she knew of old to travel to Dubai there was only one answer – yes, even though she had been out of the game for several years.
Her Dubai World Cup runner of Dolkong, a five-year-old American-bred galloper that has become the darling of South Korea. He is trained by expat West Australian Simon Foster for South Korean owners. Foster is the first non-Korean trainer invited to operate in the country and has been there since 2017.
"I met Simon years ago when I was working in racing on the Gold Coast," Stubbington said.
"He placed an ad on Facebook on December 3 last year, which I shared as I didn't consider myself. But I kept thinking about it that night so decided to message him the next day explaining that I hadn't ridden proper trackwork for about three years.
"He contacted me after the Whanganui races (Xmas at the races in December) the next day and said if I could start riding work on the Monday, I had the job. So, I rang Jo Rathbone (Whanganui trainer) who kindly let me ride one or two for her to get my eye back in.
"I requested a leave of absence from my job as a tutor (Whanganui Prison for the past seven years) which was declined, so I gave in my notice and left for Dubai on December 19 - It was a real quick turnaround.
"The job was originally intended to be looking after twO horses but the other horse, Choego Money, got travel sick en route and ended up stuck in Germany for two months. I am pleased to report he is back in Korea and recovering well."
Dolkong is a 5 year old chestnut entire by Afleet Alex and runs specifically on the dirt which is exactly what he will encounter tomorrow on the Meydan racetrack in Dubai. He has had 15 starts for seven wins, three seconds and two thirds.
"He has a huge personality with some great quirks, like poking out his tongue. He can be totally relaxed walking up to the track but is a total professional come race day and can be really strong in his trackwork.
"I have absolutely loved looking after him and he has had a huge impact on my life. I am so so grateful to have this opportunity. I actually rode him for the first time on Christmas day and was giggling to myself going up the straight in front of the majestic Meydan grandstand, thinking, holy crap, I just turned 50-years-old and look at where I am right now. I don't think I have stopped pinching myself to be honest.
"It has been the most amazing experience and I have met some really wonderful people from all over the world," Stubbington said.
Before coming to Dubai, Dolkong ran a really strong fourth in the Korea Cup over 2000 metres. His first start in Dubai was over a mile where he was left flat footed and the jockey, Pat Cosgrove rode the ears off him the whole way to finish sixth.
"They changed the plan a little after that and started him in a handicap race over 2000m, we had to employ another jockey and happily got Olivier Delouse, who was a champion jockey in Hong Kong and a hell of a nice man.'" Stubbington said.
"He ran a fast-finishing third on him and loved the horse. He was really keen to get back on and was really positive that he could win on him, which he did in his next start by seven lengths. We backed him up nine days later in a Group 1 race where he again ran a fast-finishing thirrd behind last year's Dubai World Cup winner, Thunder Snow. I must add, he was running last the majority of the race, so to run third was huge as horses normally only win from the front group of runners."
Stubbington was acutely aware of the strong international flavor around this horse.
"So he's American bred, trained in South Korea, owned by South Korea (Mr and Mrs Lee), trained by an Australian and a Kiwi track rider and handler, the raceday jockey is French and the groom is from Pakistan - got to love it, right?"