Feature Story



By Duane Fonseca - 

Veni, vidi, vici! James Orman’s short Dubai stint can be summed up in the Latin phrase attributed to Julius Caesar, who is said to have penned the words in a letter written to the Roman Senate to describe a swift victory he achieved as the Emperor of Rome. Orman’s triumphant Middle Eastern pitstop involved no blood and certainly none of the chutzpah evidenced in the writings of Caesar.

It was audacious, and yet, simultaneously, audaciously different. Achieved by a deftness of limb brought about by a calculative cunning of the mind, embodied in human form and melded with the muscle, stamina and heart of animals of superior breeding. Orman has much in common with the horses he rides. They’re like an extension of himself. He must feel one with them.

After all, he too was bred for racing. The son of a jockey father and trainer mother, Michael Orman and Caroline Allardyce’s boy knew from a very early age that if he was cut out for one thing, it was to ride a racehorse. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Be a jockey!” Orman told Adiyat Racing Plus.

Despite being keen to see to him finish school at all costs, Allardyce herself would be one of Orman's benefactors, giving her son the leg-up while he served his apprenticeship. “My dad was a jockey and my mum a trainer, so basically that’s what I knew. My dad didn’t ride when I was little. He had retired by then, but mom trained, and I grew up idolising a guy called Stathi Katsidis (who sadly died in tragic circumstances) and I just always wanted to be a jockey. “Horses fascinated me. I was part of a pony club and I started (jockey school) when I was 16, so I’ve been riding for 10 years now.”

While being smitten by racing, Orman was also bitten by the gymnastics bug. He was so good at the sport, he was counted among the elite and could have gone on to represent Australia, but, somewhere, the stars failed to align and he decided to pack up and target a career as a jockey. He might not have understood it at the time, but in the grand scheme of things it has looked a very wise move, swapping the pommel horse for the Thoroughbred. “I used to do gymnastics as a kid and was very good at it, but the timing was wrong. I was at trials to get into the Australian set up, but somehow things did not work out and when I got a chance, I had already packed up and wanted to focus on carving a career as a jockey.”


He wasted little time and, having gained his licence, Orman hit the ground running, scoring thrice in 45 rides during his first season in the saddle on route to galloping up the city and state leaderboards.

Orman won his first Brisbane premiership during the 2021-22 campaign and managed a successful title defence this year (2022- 23), while mirroring the achievements when it came to Queensland’s state honours. Furthermore, he capped the 2022-23 campaign by narrowly missing out on the national jockey’s premiership after finishing a close second behind New South Walesbased rider Aaron Bullock, who partnered a few more than Orman’s staggering 202 winners. Orman is one of the most instantly-recognised faces across the length and breadth of Australia today, with quite a few elite trainers in awe of the 26-year-old abilities. Among the really high-profile names that often seek his services is Chris Waller, trainer of the now-retired wondermare Winx, who has been aboard the Orman fanwagon for a long time and for whom the rider won the 2022 Group 3 Ascot Green Grand Prix Stakes at Eagle Farm with Kovalica.

“I am in awe of what James Orman has done. He is a man who is really improving. From an awkward barrier he did a great job on Kovalica and he rode him well. He’s a real team player and I look forward to using him as much as we can.” Waller recently told Australian media. Another name on board is that of Gold Coast based conditioner Adam Compton, who heaped praise on Orman for proving himself internationally after his fivetimer on debut at Jebel Ali. “He (Orman) was putting on a bit of a clinic over there (in Dubai), which was a good experience for him riding against other blokes with different styles," Campton said. “It showed he's not just a good rider in Brisbane, he's a world-class rider, it was good he could show them that.” It wasn’t the first time Orman was riding for Costa. He’d delivered plenty for his fellow Queenslander back home. In fact, the resident Jebel Ali resident trainer himself waxed lyrical about the rangy Orman in an interview with Adiyat Racing Plus at the start of the season when declaring him to be one of the most successful jockeys he employed in Australia.

“Jimmy is a good mate of mine and rode for me in Queensland when I trained there. I think he has a strike rate of about 35-40% for me which is a very high strike rate,” Costa had said. Orman echoed similar sentiments when he added: “It was a great experience riding here and it was good to team up with Michael again. “I rode for him back home and he’s just a fantastic trainer; I think he’s going to be leading trainer here for sure this season, we’ll just have to see how far he goes. It was just good to be teaming up with Michael once again and winning. “I know how good a trainer Michael is and I knew I was going to be riding good chances on the home track. He gets his horses ready to win and when they race they’re ready to go.

Back home he is known as a strike rate trainer. He had one of the best strike rates in the whole of Australia. That’s what I mean. When he runs a horse they’re in the finish and I’m telling you he will be Dubai’s No.1 trainer. “So, I was confident I could have a good opening day and it was a lot better than I had expected, that’s for sure. I had never ridden five winners before. I had ridden four winners in a day probably eight times before in Brisbane, and I kept missing the last winner so it was good to do five. It’s been a successful little stint and I’m very happy.” Orman admits to not having known much about the UAE before his short stint. “I hadn’t heard much about the UAE before coming here and I just followed Michael on Instagram. I just kept asking him if I could come and Michael ended up saying yeah, ‘bring it over’. This is all new to me.” Despite it being his first ever trip to the UAE, Orman revealed he’d experienced riding at Meydan before . . . within the realms of virtual reality.