The top contenders for the Stobart Flat Jockey Championship
The Stobart Flat Jockeys’ Championship looks set to be another ultra-competitive affair with several candidates lining up to make a full tilt at the title.
Jim Crowley’s remarkable surge to glory last season (he was 66/1 to be champion at one stage!) certainly showed that anything can happen in the race to be king.
We profile seven jockeys that will all feel that a title challenge is well within their grasp.
Silvestre De Sousa – 11/8
The 2015 champion will be chomping at the bit to get his title back from Jim Crowley. The Brazilian is known for his committed work ethic, quiet demeanour and the ability to ride at a lower weight than many of his rivals.
De Sousa rise to the top is a real underdog story, he had not sat on a racehorse until he was 18 and after falling in love with the sport moved to Ireland and then the UK where he initially didn’t speak any English. His big breakthrough came late on when he was 27 years old.
Having garnered more rides than any other jockey over the last two years, it’s clear that the Brazilian will certainly not lack for ammunition.
Paul Hanagan – 15/8
There will be little surprise if the 2010 and 2011 champion jockey is in contention of the title in the latter stages of the season.
Hanagan will be freelancing for the first time in five years after his partnership as retained rider to prominent owner Hamdan Al Maktoum ended recently. Despite this setback, the opportunity to again ride out for a wider range of owners and trainers is exactly what could take him back to the Championships summit.
His principal partnership as first choice rider to the northern powerhouse stable of Ricard Fahey should, health permitting, see him surpass his 2016 tally of 60 winners in quick time.
Jim Crowley – 6/1
Crowley will come into the season full of confidence as defending champion and newly retained rider to the aforementioned Hamdan Al Maktoum.
Despite a busy off-season, Crowley says that he feels refreshed and ready to get rolling in the fight to become a dual Champion jockey. The former Jump jockey will be looking to continue his excellent form from Dubai World Cup Carnival in particular where he was the top jockey with 17 winners.
A spirited sounding Crowley remarked, “2016 was incredible and I couldn’t be more proud to be Stobart Champion Flat Jockey, it’s going to be tough and very competitive this year and I’m really looking forward to it!”
Ryan Moore – 6/1
Regarded by many as the best flat jockey on the circuit at the moment, given a full book of rides every day Ryan Moore would be bang up there challenging for the title.
His strike rate last season was superior to that of eventual winner Crowley but the three-time champion has made no secret of his eagerness to be more selective when it comes to his future mounts in order to help preserve his body and mind.
The number one jockey to the supreme Aidan O’Brien is unmatched when it comes to the big occasion and will, injury permitting, probably be atop the prize money leaderboard come the end of the season. Whether or not he wants to go full tilt at landing a fourth title is anyone’s guess but if he declares an ambition to do so then you can expect that price to shorten dramatically.
Andrea Atzeni – 10/1
The Sardinian has well and truly established himself right at the top table of British racing despite having no family background in racing whatsoever – his father is a farmer and his mother a dentist!
Having finished third last season, the Italian will certainly fancy his chances at going two better this time around. He is the number one jockey for trainer Roger Varian and also boasts strong ties with many other leading Newmarket-based trainers.
A bug last season around Newmarket may have scuppered his chances more than most and if his supply isn’t affected by ill health this season then you can expect him to make a strong charge.
William Buick – 12/1
The Norwegian-born jockey with British and Danish cizitenship showed how talented he was early on in his career, sharing the champion apprentice jockey title in 2008 with David Probert and winning the Lester Award for Apprentice Jockey of the Year in 2007 and 2008.
He is a highly rated by bookies, punters and journalists alike. Buick achieved 64 wins last season mainly riding for Goldophin and rides as first jockey for trainer Charlie Appleby.
Buick has enjoyed many Group One successes over the years in Britian and abroad, the most notable is the 2010 Dubai Sheema Classic on Dar Re Mi and last year he won the Coral Eclipse at Sandown. His upward curve in his development and last year’s high win rate of 18% will mean he will get more rides and maybe a shot at the title.
Oisin Murphy – 20/1
A player at a bigger price is the young and exciting talent Oisin Murphy. At only 22 he may have less experience than the remainder of this sextet but it’s just that energy and joie de vivre which could carry him towards a title challenge.
The young Irishman also has many supporters in high places as alongside being the number one rider to the mighty Qatar Racing operation and main rider to Andrew Balding, he has also struck up a recent partnership with the powerful Saeed Bin Suroor.
The Irishman will need to keep a tighter check on himself from a disciplinary perspective though if he’s to go close. He is currently in the midst of a 10-day riding ban which will see him give his rivals a two day head-start in the race to become Champion Jockey.