Billy The Kid - Champion Apprentice

Features | 17th October 2023

Billy Loughnane has come an awful long way in a short space of time!

What A Year!

On QIPCO British Champions Day last year, the teenager was a wannabe jockey still nine days from his debut ride and more than a month off his first winner. This time, he will be at Ascot to be crowned champion apprentice jockey, following in the footsteps of the likes of Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore and Oisin Murphy. It has been an incredible 12 months for the son of trainer Mark Loughnane. He has gone from rookie rider, fresh from the pony racing circuit, to the brightest prospect Flat racing has seen for a number of years.

Billy The Kid

The 17-year-old, who has picked up the nickname ‘Billy The Kid’ due to his baby-faced features and deadly accuracy when on horseback, made a huge impact on the all-weather last winter. At times, his apprentices’ weight allowance almost looked like cheating, as he notched up winner after winner. 

He rode more than twice as many winners as his nearest rival when landing the All-Weather Champion Apprentice title with 41 victories. That haul included an astonishing 23 winners in January alone and he even cut short his winter season to ride track work in America. Billy returned to Britain ready for the new turf season and made an immediate impact. 

On his first ride back he won Doncaster’s prestigious Brocklesby Stakes – the first two-year-old race of the season – despite not being able to utilise his 5lbs weight claim. The following month he became the youngest jockey since Lester Piggott to ride in a British Classic when he partnered Sweet Harmony in the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

Heading To The Top

There was no fairytale ending but more and more trainers were starting to take notice. Billy had already ridden a winner in the Godolphin blue and Charlie Appleby wasn’t the only high-profile trainer keen to take advantage of his services. Classic-winning trainers William Haggas, Ed Dunlop and Michael Bell all provided the young jockey with ammunition, while it was left to regular supporter George Boughey to provide the 95th winner of his burgeoning career when Lambert was successful at Kempton. 

That victory on September 8 was a significant milestone as it meant Billy was no longer entitled to a weight claim. In less than a year since taking his first steps towards becoming a professional jockey, he was now going head to head with the very best riders in the world on level terms. The winners have continued to flow and there seems to have been no let up in Billy’s rise through the ranks. 

From the moment he burst onto the Flat racing scene he has looked like a natural in the saddle. That talent could easily take the Irish-born lad from rural Worcestershire to the very top.