A TWELVE-year-old jockey s looking forward to 2020 season... of Shetland pony racing.

Zak Kent spent the majority of 2019 crossing the finishing line first during the Shetland pony racing season.

The sport is just like regular horse racing but with shorter horses and is aimed at children of at least eight-years-old. All riders must also be under 5ft tall.

Seen as a gateway in to professional horse riding, Zak has been tearing up the track winning 25 of his 27 races last season.

Zak, who attends Gosfield School, even won the prestigious Shetland Pony Grand National race in Newmarket after a nailbiting photo finish.

While Zak’s skill on horseback is unquestioned, his pony Briar Smokey Joe is considered one of the finest racing Shetlands in the country.

Halstead Gazette:

Zak’s mum, Paula, said: “We’re not really a racing family but my mum has been training Shetlands for 24 years.

“We first got Smokey Joe about five years ago and he’s been Zak’s companion since he’s been old enough to ride him.

“We have no doubt in our mind that he is the fastest Shetland in the world.

“It shows, I mean he’s won around 99 per cent of all the races he’s been entered in. To be honest, he’s a bit of freak.

“We have people shrug and say ‘Oh we didn’t know you were coming’ when they see that we have Smokey Joe with us.

“We are just a normal family and we don’t have unlimited funds, we’re on a shoestring budget.

“That being said, Smokey Joe has taken us to a place that we never in a million years though we could reach.

“He won the race in Liverpool and he was half a lap ahead of everyone else.”

Halstead Gazette:

Taking time off school for his training, Zak is mentored by 1981 Grand National champion Bob Champion but was considering retirement from the miniature sport as there was simply not much else he could achieve.

However, deciding to stick with the sport and with 2020 in his sights, Zak has set a couple of goals for the year to come.

With Briar Smokey Joe a Shetland pony racing stalwart, Zak has decided to train a new horse to race called Roxy.

Paula said: “Zak seems confident Roxy is even faster than Smokey Joe which if that’s true then she might end up being a bit dangerous.

“The goal for Zak over next year is mainly to train up and race Roxy.

“Zak’s other aim is that he wants to win every single race he enters this year.”