The Stobart Apprentice Jockey Championship kicked off on the 5th of May and is set to finish in the last on the final day of the British Champions day meeting on 20th October 2018 and unless Rossa Ryan rides every winner between now and Saturday, Jason Watson will be crowned as the 2018 Champion Apprentice.
Watson fully deserves to win the title as he’s been far and away the apprentice fin of the season. At present, he has ridden 71 winners from 442 rides, many of which in recent months have come in big Saturday races. The 18-year-old initially from Brighton’s rise through the ranks has been astronomic considering he only rode two winners last season.
The aspiring jockey received lessons from Ray Goldstein(Marc Goldstein’s father) as a six-year-old and after his first lesson the astute Goldstein said:
“he’s a natural, he should be a jockey! If he doesn’t win his first race at Brighton by the time he’s 18 I’ll eat my hat!”
Watson had to wait less than two months to ride his first winner aboard the Gary Moore trained Many Dreams for whom he rode for before joining the “King” of nurturing apprentice jockeys Andrew Balding. A quick look at the jockeys to come up through the Balding academy tells it’s own story, with William Buick, David Probert and man of the moment Oisin Murphy all among his past apprentices.
The Champion apprentice elect’s biggest winner of his career came in the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood aboard the Hugo Palmer trained Gifted Master. These victories seemed a distant dream Watson revealed:
“There was 200 days from my first winner to my second and I wasn’t too sure whether I was going to carry on…It wasn’t that fact that I wasn’t willing to wait – I just felt I wasn’t good enough if I wasn’t riding those winners.
“It’s such a prestigious yard that produces a lot of talent. You see jockeys flying through their claim – that wasn’t happening to me so I kind of thought I wasn’t good enough, I had a lot of people backing me and telling me I just needed to sit tight and it would come.
“To be fair to Mr Balding, he said he didn’t want me riding too much at the start of my first season as he didn’t want me going through my claim too quickly…After 200 days I didn’t think he needed to worry about that.”
There must also be an honourable mention to Rossa Ryan who has had a wonderful season. The young Irish native is apprenticed to Richard Hannon who was also the source of the 2015 champion apprentice Tom Marquand. Ryan looks to have a very right future.
Once the title is finished people will be looking for the next up and coming apprentice and I think if Jamie Gormley stays as an apprentice he’ll be the next young jockey to add their name to this illustrious list.
David Egan – 2017
Last season’s title went the way of David Egan who clinched the crown with 53 winners which was a single victory over his closest rival Kieran Shoemark. Egan who hails from Kildare and comes from a great racing family being a son of leading flat jockey John Egan and his grandfather is the late, great Dessie Hughes.
Since emerging triumphantly in his ding-dong battle with Kieran Shoemark, Egan rode out his claim aboard Keeper’s Choice in June. After that milestone victory Egan said:
“It’s great. Hopefully, we will keep things rolling over now I’ve lost the claim as that is what every apprentice looks for.
“I’ve got great people supporting me to help bring me to the next level.”
In July he announced that he was abandoning his chance of landing back to back apprentice titles by taking out his full professional licence. The 19-year-old decided to pursue higher grade winners by joining agent Tony Hind and strengthening his relationship with his main trainer Roger Varian.
Egan added: “One day I would be keen to go for the jockeys’ championship and Tony Hind is the right man to give me the best possible chance”
He currently sits 21st in the jockey’s table and with his combination of potential and pedigree he may just fulfil his dream of being a champion jockey in the future.
Josephine Gordon – 2016
Josephine Gordon born on the 16th May 1993 hails from North Devon and her interest in racing began when her family bought a horse for pony racing and as they say “the rest is history!”
A trip to the racing school led to Josephine spending time riding out for the likes of Annabel King, Jo Hughes and Stan Moore, where her career really took off. It was obvious from an early stage that Josephine had a lot of natural talent, which was highlighted when she rode her first winner on just her ninth ride winner at Bath. After this quickfire start to her riding career, Gordon surprisingly had to wait 18 months between drinks.
2016 proved to be a fantastic, career-defining season for Gordon as she rode over 70 winners, was crowned Champion apprentice and also won the accolade of Lady jockey of the year at the prestigious Lesters awards. These achievements have not gone unnoticed as leading equine operations such as Godolphin and trainer Sir Michael Stoute availing of her services.
If 2016 went well, 12 months on, things were going even better for Gordon as she rode the biggest winner for her career when guiding the William Haggas trained Fastnet Tempest to glory in the Victoria Cup at the Royal Meeting. A first Group winner came aboard Koropick in the Chipchase Stakes in July.
She followed it up with a second Group 3 win for Hugo Palmer in the Princess Royal Stakes on Apphia in September. Josephine beat her 2016 total of winners to finish 24th in the jockeys’ championship. In November she rode her 100th winner of the year, becoming only the second female jockey to reach this milestone after Hayley Turner in 2008
Tom Marquand – 2015
The Gloucestershire native incredibly won the Champion Apprentice title at the age of 17 only twelve months on from his first career ride. This rise to prominence was down to his natural talent and the backing he received from his boss Richard Hannon.
It was always clear that Marquand was going to be a jockey as he first sat in the saddle at the age of 2 and would cry until he was put on a horse. This tactic may not work for every parent with a screaming toddler but it was just the trick for a screaming Marquand.
Tony McCoy was the jockey that Tom looked up to growing up and he held dreams of becoming a jump jockey in his youth. However, his dreams were bigger than his legs as his growth spurt stopped at 5ft 5inches. After a stint at Newmarket’s racing school he decided to turn his attention to the flat:
“I didn’t really get into the Flat until I was about 14 or 15 and started riding out for Tony Carroll,”
The plan was for Marquand to join the Balding apprentice academy but love took him to Richard Hannon’s as he explains:
“My initial plan was to go to Andrew Balding’s yard,” he says.
“I’d spent a month there and I was all up for going, but my girlfriend, who’s an apprentice for Richard Hannon, got me a chance to try out there. Her dad organised me to go down to ride out so I did, and I loved it. Then they offered me the job.”
Lingfield was the location for the young jockeys fledgeling ride aboard Here For Good in November 2014 and it only took a month to register his first winner on Mecado at Kempton. A nip and tuck battle lay ahead for the Champion apprentice title with the Richard-Fahey based Jack Garritty but it’s one he clinched by only two victories.
The final number of wins stood at 54 in comparison to 52 for Garritty. It wasn’t just the number of wins that was impressive but also the quality.
After claiming the title Hannon said:
“There’s no doubt that Tom has the ability to go all the way. He rides very well and is a pleasant lad who works hard and deserves all the success he has had these past 12 months”.
Since this whirlwind season, Marquand has maintained a strong relationship with Richard Hannon, which has seen him ride at the top level on numerous occasions. On 1000 Guineas day at Newmarket he was aboard the well-fancied Anna Nerium but unfortunately for Marquand he had to watch stablemate Billesdon Brook and Sean Levey streak to victory. Although I’m sure he was delighted for the yard and the winning connections he’d also have loved to have been in Levey’s position.
Who knows if he will ever emulate previous winners by going on to become a champion jockey but one thing for certain is that a bright future lies ahead.
Oisin Murphy – 2014
The term “blue blood” is used within the equine industry when referring to regally bred thoroughbreds but it could equally be used to describe Oisin Murphy who’s uncle is none other than triple Gold Cup winning Jim Culloty.
The Killarney native had his first taste of racecourse action at Chepstow in May 2013 and one month later he was steering his first winner Imperial Glance at Salisbury for his boss Andrew Balding. A year later Murphy wasn’t just winning the Champion apprentice title he was running away with recording 76 winners, the most since Paul Hanagan rode 81 to secure the crown in 2002.
A high profile four-timer on Ayr Gold Cup day including the feature race was the defining moment in that championship-winning season. The Irishman’s career has just continued on an upward trajectory with the powerhouses of Qatar and Godolphin backing the twenty-three-year-old.
Oisin has had a season most jockeys could only ever dream about this current campaign. Roaring Lion has been the standout horse in Murphy’s artillery with the grey landing the Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes, which was his first Group 1 in Ireland.
He also sits second in the jockey’s title behind Silvestre De Sousa on winners and also second in prize money behind Ryan Moore. It only looks a matter of time before Murphy adds the title proper to his growing list of accolades.
Freddy Tylicki – 2009
Tylicki started his riding career in Ireland where he worked under leading trainer Dermot Weld and Jim Bolger. A move to England to be an apprentice at Richard Fahey really kick-started his career where he rode 25 winners in 2008 and followed this up with 60 winners in 2009. Those winners proved enough to defeat David Probert who finished just 1 winner behind Tylicki.
Following this victory, Freddy donated his trophy to the family of former promising apprentice Jamie Kyne, who tragically died in a house fire.
After this fantastic season, Freddy became a steady 60 winners a season jockey but was beginning to hit new heights in 2016 when he forged a fruitful partnership with the James Fanshawe trained Speedy Boarding. The pair landed a brace of Group Ones with victories in the Prix Jean Romanet and Prix De L´Opera.
On the 31 October 2016 Freddy was involved in a serious four-horse accident at Kempton Park Racecourse which ended with him in intensive care at St George’s Hospital in Tooting. It was later announced that he had been diagnosed with T7 paralysis meaning he is paralysed from the waist down.
After the accident Tylicki said:
“You’re going to have good days obviously and you’re still going to have a lot of bad days, but where I am now is just trying to find my new routine”
At The Races and ITV Racing presenter, Matt Chapman set up a gofundme page to support Tylicki in the days proceeding the accident and the fund incredibly raised more than £250,000. Freddy recently had his first win as an owner when Mary Salome won her maiden for Madeline Tylicki. After this victory Freddy said:
“She is pretty much my first horse but I have a share in a couple with Dr Catherine Wills over in Britain in training with James Fanshawe and she gave me a taste for it, which I am very grateful for.
“Paul Clarke, my old agent, and myself own this filly and we bought her for fun and also to support the family and Madeleine and it has worked out brilliantly.”
Who knows what the future holds for Tylicki but it looks bright given his passion and expert knowledge within the equine industry.
Ryan Moore – 2003
Ryan was born into racing, with his father Gary is a very successful trainer over both codes. He started riding at the age of four and by twelve he was leading AP McCoy over the jumps at his father’s stables. The main attributes he picked up for AP were his drive and dedication, which was shown by the champ until the day he retired.
Moore’s first victory came at the age of sixteen which cemented his decision to become a jockey having flirted with the idea of being a professional footballer. The drive he picked up from AP was evident when he won the Champion apprentice crown in 2003 given he started riding he weighed 8st 10lb, but by the time he lifted the title he had got down to 7st 13lb.
Richard Hannon senior was Ryan’s main mentor as he rose through the ranks and following his apprentice championship in 2003, Moore quickly broke through the £1 million prize money barrier and rode more than 100 winners in 2004. A first Group 1 came when partnering Notnowcato in the Juddmonte International at York in August 2006.
This would also be the first time Moore was crowned Champion jockey but not the last as he added titles in 2008 and 2009. Since 2011, Ryan has been one of Ballydoyles leading jockeys and has won a plethora of top races all over the world. He is often referred to as the best jockey in the world and few would argue.
Paul Hanagan – 2002
Another top jockey who’s completed the Apprentice and Champion jockey double is Paul Hanagan, who took the apprentice title in 2002, with a very impressive haul of 81 winners. This was the second highest total for an apprentice since Lee Newman rode 87 winners to be crowned champion in 2000.
This was a sign of what was to come for Hanagan as he recorded over 100 winners the following year including a big win in the Northumberland Plate aboard Mirjan. Richard Fahey had predicted that Hanagan would be crowned Champion jockey at some stage but I doubt he envisaged it would be eight years after his breakthrough apprentice season. An opening four-timer timer put Hanagan in a strong early position and he never relinquished the lead, eventually riding 191 winners.
Hanagan successfully defended the title in 2011 fending off the strong challenge from Silvestre De Sousa which was one of the best title battles in living memory. These successes did not go unnoticed as he was made retained jockey to Sheik Hamdan Al Maktoum’s horses in 2012, a role he held until 2016.
Following the split, Hanagan moved back up North to rekindle his strong relationship with Richard Fahey and I believe he will continue to flourish and may challenge for Champion jockey again next season.
Lee Newman – 2000
The world looked at Lee Newman’s feet when the Richard Hannon based jockey streaked away with the apprentice jockey title with a staggering 87 winners in 2000. However, the following season proved far tougher for Lee with only 21 winners on the board and after breaking his ankle in a car accident the Scottish born Newman had a problem with his weight and had to quit the saddle.
A move to Barbados to work as a bookie followed and what looked like a small career peak turned into an eight-year hiatus. In 2010 Newman announced he’d be returning to saddle after getting his weight down from 14 stone at its peak to 9 stone. The comeback, while successful was short lived as weight issued, reared it’s ugly head again.
Newman announced the second comeback last year, five years on from retiring for the second time. Class is permanent is the term that comes to mind when discussing Newman and he showed this when competing at Group One level upon his return to the saddle in Australia and if he can stay on top of his weight then future big winners lie ahead.
Jason Weaver – 1993
Jason began his career with Luca Cumani and rode 60 winners in 1993 which was enough to clinch the Champion apprentice title. After this successful start to his career, Weaver moved to Middleham to become stable jockey to Mark Johnston.
Weaver had a fantastic if slightly short riding career amassing over 1,000 winners, with some of the highlight being winning the Ascot Gold Cup aboard Double Trigger and the St. James’s Palace Stakes on Bijou d’Inde.
Issues with his weight lead to Weaver announcing his retirement from the saddle in 2002 at the young age of 30. Since his retirement, Weaver has worked with leading racing broadcasters ITV and At The Races where he has built a fantastic relationship with co-host Luke Harvey.
We may not be treated to Jason’s riding brillance anymore but he looks sure to be a permanent fixture on our screens.