BY LAURIE SCOTT
In a world dominated by men and the colts they train, Amira Chichakly is making a name for herself. Her brand new training stable has already hit the board a number of times with wins at Belmont when racing resumed in the early summer. In July, she headed up to Saratoga with her string of racers.
The Saratoga Race meet is one of the most prestigious in the sport. Horses come from all over the country to try and reach the winner’s circle. It’s not an easy feat, and it’s truly special for a trainer to have a winner at Saratoga in her first few months as trainer of her own racing stable. Chichakly did just that with her mare, Bustin Scones.
Amira Chichakly tailors her approach to each individual horse, and doesn’t make them follow a strict training program. “Each horse needs to be looked at carefully and evaluated to make sure the team is doing its best for them,” she explained. “Bustin Scones has a lot of personality. She is very sensitive and wants to be allowed to do things her way. I try to keep her happy and when she’s happy, she gives you everything.”
Bustin Scones has certainly been giving Chichakly her all this year. The 2016 mare by Bustin Stones out of Lake Song (Prime Timber) is owned by Darlene Bilinski. This year she has raced 7 times, coming in third once, second three times and on August 29th, 2020 she won at Saratoga. “She has so much heart packed into that little body, said Chichakly.
Bustin Scones and Chichakly have headed back to Belmont, and the plan is to get her ready for a move up in class after her Allowance win at Saratoga. “I think she has all the talent and if she tells me she’s ready, we will be putting her in more races at Belmont this fall.”
Amira Chichakly grew up riding and training horses at her home in Cornish, New Hampshire. She tried out many different disciplines; endurance, hunters, dressage, and that well rounded past gives her a great perspective on training. She always knew she wanted to work with horses. “When I started, I was very young, my goal was just to work with horses and be happy.” She started as a hotwalker and did some riding, but quickly her skill with the horses was apparent and she became an assistant trainer. Chichakly worked mostly with Gary Contessa, a top trainer in NY, and when Contessa retired this March, he tapped Chichakly to take over the full- time training of most of his horses.
Starting her own racing business at the beginning of the pandemic while newly pregnant with her first child wasn’t what Chichakly had in mind for this year. “The timing wasn’t exactly ideal. I had no idea Gary was going to retire, but if there’s one thing you learn with horses, it’s that you have to take opportunities when they are given and work through the obstacles.”
Chichakly’s baby is due on October 6, 2020 and she plans to get right back to work. “Off the top of my head, I can name about 10 women trainers in NY. We are pretty rare here. Kentucky and other states seem to have more women in racing and you can have a business with a smaller string of horses. New York is really competitive and I have around 20 horses who need my attention, so I plan to get right back to work.”
If training a string of horses isn’t enough to keep her busy, Chichakly is also an artist who paints in a number of mediums. She has done commissions for some of her racing connections, and she also has a small herd of Welsh ponies at home in New Hampshire that will be earning their keep by teaching her child to ride in a few years.