A TWELVE-year-old jockey has raced to Grand National glory ... on a Shetland pony.

Zak Kent, 12, from White Notley, spent most of 2019 crossing the finishing line first in a season of Shetland pony racing.

The sport is just like regular horse racing but is aimed at children, with a minimum age limit of eight years old.

Riders race the pint-sized ponies rather than horses.

Their smaller size means they are ideal for children, and all riders must be under 5ft tall.

Seen as a gateway to professional horse riding, the sport has seen Zak tearing up the track as he went on to win an astonishing 25 of his 27 races last season.

Zak, who goes to Gosfield School, even won the prestigious Shetland Pony Grand National race at Newmarket last September after a nailbiting photo finish.

He is allowed to take time off school for training and is now mentored by 1981 Grand National-winning jockey Bob Champion.

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

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

“That 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.”

The youngster was thinking of retiring from the sport because there was not much left for him to achieve.

But he decided to stick with racing and with 2020 in his sights, Zak has set a couple of goals for the year to come.

He has decided to train a new horse called Roxy.

Paula said: “Zak seems confident that Roxy is even faster than Smokey Joe.

“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 to win every single race he enters this year.”