Smiling Swede Per-Anders Graberg eager to shine on Shergar Cup debut
Per-Anders Graberg is happy to admit he was surprised to be picked to ride in the Shergar Cup this Saturday.
The 44-year-old Swede, who will make his debut in the jockeys' team competition at Ascot, will only be familiar to the most dedicated followers of international racing, although he is the reigning champion jockey in Sweden.
Graberg said: "I had never been approached to ride in the Shergar Cup before. They first approached me about a month ago. To be honest, I didn’t really think they looked to Sweden for jockeys for it. It wasn’t very hard to say yes.
"My good friend Fredrik [Johansson] has ridden in it three times I think. I’ve picked his brain about how to ride Ascot a little bit. We had a good chat about it. I’m going for a walk around the track to have a good look at it."
The prospect of Graberg riding in front of roughly 30,000 people and against the likes of Yutaka Take and Joao Moreira on Saturday is all the more remarkable as he only fell into racing by chance.
He said: "I met this trainer, he said 'you’re a small guy, you’ve got small feet, you aren’t really going to grow that much. Why don’t you want to become a jockey?' I said I didn’t really know what that was but that I would give it a try, and he taught me.
"After school I started working for him full-time, became his apprentice. I wasn’t very good at the beginning, it took me a long time before I actually did anything good."
It took Graberg 60 tries to win his first race, but he got the hang of it – he has won the Stockholm Cup five times and is chasing another Swedish jockeys' title, having notched a treble on Wednesday before flying to Britain.
Graberg has come a long way from his only previous riding experience in Britain, 12 years ago on the all-weather surface at Lingfield when both of his mounts finished 10th. He did not appear to be too impressed by the Surrey track, disliking the sharp turns. "It was just a straight and then a sharp turn," he shrugged.
It seems likely the Ascot experience will be more to Graberg's liking.
Q&A with Per-Anders Graberg
Most memorable victory? First Stockholm Cup.
Favourite racecourse? Santa Anita.
Favourite horse? Bank Of Burden.
Country you haven’t ridden in but would like to? I’d like to race ride in America.
What did you make of Sweden’s performance in the World Cup? It started out very good and then in the last game it was a little bit worse.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Henrik Larsson? Ibrahimovic.
Go to meal? A nice steak.
What's more important for a jockey, ambition or talent? Ambition.
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