The battle for the 2018 Stobart Champion Apprentice title is on!
With less than 10 weeks to run in the Stobart Apprentice Jockeys Championship the scene is all set for the young lights of the weighing room to battle it out for their place in Flat racing history.
Current champion, David Egan, is bidding to become the first back-to-back winner since Gary Bardwell in 1987/88; while a host of new, hungry riders look to wrestle the crown from his grasp.
We profile the top apprentices in the competitive mix for one of the most prestigious prizes in the sport.
Cool ride from .@joshy_bryan to get Out Of The Question home in the Apprentice Handicap and break the gelding's maiden.
Beaten favourite on three of his last four starts but not today!
Two more rides for the young Jockey as well.
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) June 26, 2018
William Buick, David Probert and Oisin Murphy all have two things in common. Not only have they all been Stobart Champion Apprentice but they all also began their careers under the tutelage of Andrew Balding.
With both Josh Bryan and the talented Jason Watson making waves in the Apprentice ranks this season, it’s clear to see that his Kingsclere yard remains is a perfect academy for young riding prospects.
Bryan may have less winners than the rest of the jockeys on this list, but his strike rate of 14% puts him up there as one of the deadlier. His talents have also been most apparent lately when riding against fellow apprentices; the five-pound claimer notched up a pair of apprentice handicap wins at Windsor and Chepstow, creeping ever closer to 50 career winners in the process.
It is often said that winning is a habit and Jane Elliot certainly has picked up that habit of late. Her apparent ability to eke out every drop of energy from her mount makes her one of the most exciting apprentices riding right now.
Elliot is currently joint top of the Silk Series leaderboard and her 15% strike rate for the season shows that she’s in a rich vein of form. Elliot is a keen advocate of the Silk Series stating that “It’s great to be leading the Silk Series, it’s a series I’d love to win as it’s great PR for female jockeys.”
The young rider has profited from forming relationships with a large number of trainers during the winter months. “I was quiet over the winter but kept in with good contacts for the summer so as soon as the turf season started I was lucky to be in a position to ride plenty of horses with good chances.”
— Beverley Racecourse (@Beverley_Races) May 30, 2018
Based with Nigel Tinkler in the racing heartland of Malton, North Yorkshire; 19-year-old Edmunds has come a long way in the saddle in a short space of time.
Having just had four rides under rules in 2016, Edmunds burst onto the scene last year notching up a hugely impressive 51 winners from January to December.
2018 has seen the Edmunds carry on that good form with 24 winners to his name so far and 14 registered in the Stobart Apprentice Jockeys Championship. Given his rapid rate of success to date, it won’t be long until he rides out his claim and sets out in the professional ranks.
Joy for favourite backers here at Redcar as Whinmoor completes a hat-trick in the Jacks Coaches Handicap under Lewis Edmunds for trainer Nigel Tinkler. pic.twitter.com/oLDnEbcVYp
— Redcar Racecourse (@Redcarracing) July 22, 2018
Former National schoolboy boxer Rodriguez began life in the saddle working for Richard Ford before heading to the illustrious Northern Racing College at Doncaster to further his learning and obtain his riding license.
Now based with Group One-winning trainer Michael Dods, the 21-year-old Rodriguez has set his sights firmly on following up a breakout 2017 campaign with another solid season of progress.
Rodriguez has built up strong relationships with a host of trainers across the UK and has hit a rich seem of Summer form with 5 winners to his name in the last fortnight alone.
While Rodriguez’s career is undoubtedly progressing at a rapid rate, one memory from last Summer will remain a career highlight. On board the Iain Jardine-trained Nakeeta, Rodriguez won the hugely prestigious Ebor Handicap at York, showcasing all his talent as he navigated the then six-year-old into contention before squeezing every last drop of effort to win the valuable prize by a head.
He’ll no doubt be aiming to make more big race headlines this season.
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) June 29, 2018
The pocket rocket who hails from the Ilse of Arran has been firing home the winners in the last couple of weeks and now finds herself one win away from 60 career victories.
Currie is presently based with former three-time champion jockey Richard Hughes and couldn’t have a better mentor to learn her craft from.
That said, Currie has forged good relationships with plenty of trainers and is making the most of all the outside rides she’s receiving.
One such ride which could propel Currie to the next level is the exciting Angel Mead, trained by Joe Tuite. The two-year-old filly is highly rated by the yard and showed an abundance of talent to land a hot Novice event at Newbury last week. A tilt at the Group 3 Dick Poole at Salisbury was touted after the race by the trainer and Currie will no doubt be keen to retain the ride.
Dizzy G defies a 9lb rise in the weights to justify favouritism in the Team Tuite’s On Fire British EBF Fillies’ Handicap under Nicola Currie. pic.twitter.com/gSAfbsKBYx
— Newbury Racecourse (@NewburyRacing) July 5, 2018
Right up at the head of affairs in the Apprentice title race is the highly-touted Jason Watson.
Jason is presently based with Kingsclere master Andrew Balding and has notched up 18 winners this season, turning plenty of heads in the process. To put it into perspective, that puts him ahead of Group 1 winning jockeys, Hayley Turner and Pat Dobbs.
Looking at the longer-term outlook at his career Watson understands that although he might not win the Apprentice Jockeys Championship he has to take advantage of his ever-growing reputation saying, “If you can get your face in the picture and get yourself out there, it’s going to make all the different in the future”.
Make Music hits all the right notes under Jason Watson as she shows a great attitude to make all in the bet365 Fillies' Handicap for trainer Andrew Balding who completes a double. pic.twitter.com/nKvdTXpZPW
— Haydock Park Races (@haydockraces) July 7, 2018
The prodigious Ryan first made a splash by riding over 150 winners on the Irish pony racing circuit before registering his maiden winner under rules at Dundalk at the tender age of 16.
It didn’t take long for his talent to be spotted by the big guns in the UK, and in no time he’d been snapped up by top trainer Richard Hannon.
Since then Rossa has been flying and after a recent double at Chester is creeping ever closer to 60 career winners. Despite winning there recently Chester doesn’t hold the greatest of memories for Ryan. It’s been nearly a year since he suffered a heavy fall at the course; the speedy recovery from which he attributes to help from his parents.
He told us, “My mum and dad helped me a lot, they didn’t let me do anything for a week and a half and then they started me off walking for a week or so and by the time I had came back to England I was running 5k twice a day so my fitness was right back”.
When he’s not race riding up and down the country the Galway boy likes to stick to his Irish roots saying “All my friends and family know I’m a massive Gaelic Football fan and during my down time I’ll sit and watch GAA and Hurling”.
Based north of the border with Iain Jardine, local lad Jamie has been flying this season and is presently leading the chasing pack of apprentices trying to catch runaway leader David Egan. He’s ridden five winners in the last 14 days, including a tidy Saturday double at Hamilton, and with plenty of rides booked doesn’t look like slowing down.
Like many Apprentice’s Gormley is making the most of any outside ride opportunities he can get his hands on, riding winners for powerful yards such as Jim Goldie and Tim Easterby. If he can keep up his strong run of form it’ll give David Egan good cause to start looking over his shoulder!
— Hamilton Park Races (@HamiltonParkRC) June 20, 2018
The newly-upgraded Lily Langtry Stakes at @Goodwood_Races could be next after Pilaster beat a fair field under a penalty at Kempton. Only disappointment was a 4-day ban for David Egan. #RUKMomentOfTheDay
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) July 4, 2018
If you go to the British Racing School and talk to Chief Executive Grant Harris about David Egan his face lights up. Harris talks about Egan in same way he talks about William Buick, stating that his work ethic was always exemplary in his quest to improve.
After a whirlwind 2017 which saw him go from being a seven-pound claimer to Apprentice Champion in the space of 5 months, Egan has done brilliantly to keep the momentum rolling into 2018.
With multiple Saturday successes already under his belt the 19-year-old rode out his claim aboard Keepers Choice at Newbury last month; but crucially remains eligible for the title as he is still riding on an Apprentice license.
That license will officially expire 6 months after his claim ended meaning, unless he decides to renew early, all Egan’s wins this season will count to the title.