Mohamed Osman's path to fulfilling his dream of becoming a jockey was anything but conventional.
Osman grew up in Somalia, where the idea of becoming a jockey was outrageous, he said. Osman fled his native country and became a refugee in Kenya before coming to the United States, and he said survival had been the only thing on his mind at the time.
Osman said it was in April 2009, after seeing Calvin Borel ride Mine That Bird to a win at the Kentucky Derby, that he had made the decision to go to the Preakness Stakes May 16, 2009, to see firsthand what all of the hype surrounding the second leg of the Triple Crown was about.
"Seeing the crowd enjoying the excitement of the races, I was hit with a bug," Osman said.
On Oct. 17, 2011, at the age of 30, Osman's dream became reality when he quit his job as hotel manager at the Homestead Studio Hotel in Fairfax, Va., and headed to Cope, S.C., to work as an apprentice jockey at Shuler Stables LLC.
"In 2011, I quit my job and went to South Carolina to learn how to break babies," Osman said, "and have been galloping at Pimlico and Bowie since."
On Jan. 15, in his second year of riding, the 33-year-old Osman guided Princess Beau K to victory during the second race at Laurel Park for his first lifetime win.
"I was so excited," Osman said, "because after so many races of not winning, I was getting frustrated. Feelings of gratitude swept over me, thinking of all the people who helped me along the way, especially trainer Charlie Williams."
Osman rode Princess Beau K to the front, then gave up the lead, but fought back and made it to the finish line 2.5 lengths ahead of Friendly Princess, with a time of 1:30.51.
Despite losing the lead during the final stages of the race, Osman said he had been unfazed by the pressure of trying to regain it.
"I was relaxed when the other horse came up to us," Osman said, "and I just rode her with confidence."
In addition to that victory, Osman has started eight other races this year, finishing higher than fourth in one. In 2013, Osman's first season as a jockey, he started 19 races, and did not finish better than fifth during those races.
Although there had been some early growing pains for Osman, he said he continued to go back to the drawing board in an effort to develop his skills.
"Going back to work harder and harder, exercising and breezing horses, continuing to improve my skills will help me ride more winners," Osman said.
Osman said he had a drive to get back to the winner's circle and would continue to ride as long as his body allowed him to.
"Right now, the focus is on riding and winning races," Osman said. "As long as I have my health, my desire will keep me going for many years to come."