The Battle To Be Champion Apprentice

Features | 20th September 2022

The race for the apprentice jockeys’ title is shaping up to be one of the most thrilling finishes for years.

In a battle that has quality AND quality, Harry Davies and Benoit De La Sayette have been nip and tuck all season. The two supremely-talented riders have both been in great demand from some of Flat racing’s top trainers. It promises to be an exciting climax to the tussle with the champion apprentice set to be crowned on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot on 15 October. Here’s a closer look at Flat racing two hottest young jockeys.

Benoit De La Sayette

When John Gosden made Benoit his first apprentice to be attached to his powerful Newmarket stables for 29 years, the spotlight immediately focussed on the stylish teenager. 

He seamlessly switched to the professional ranks showing all the talent that was honed on the pony racing circuit in France. His father Geoffroy had been a successful jockey in France before crossing the English Channel to become a work rider for Godolphin and then James Fanshawe. 

When Benoit steered Haqeeqy to victory in the Lincoln on the first day of the turf season last year he looked to have the racing world at his feet. It didn’t work out that way as he was banned for most of last season but he has bounced back in spectacular form this summer. With the backing of the Gosdens as well as Fanshawe, Michael Bell and Kevin Phillipart de Foy, among many others, he has impressed with his style and timing. 

His win on subsequent Ebor winner Trawlerman at the Qatar Goodwood Festival was a high-profile success and his boss also entrusted him with rides on smart performers like Mighty Ulysses and Special Envoy. 

Benoit has struck up a particularly-fruitful partnership with Caius Chorister. The 19-year-old is unbeaten in four rides on David Menuisier’s star stayer, including victory at Goodwood’s big summer festival. He is going to get plenty of ammunition in the final weeks of the season before next month’s spectacular final at Ascot on Qipco British Champions Day.

Harry Davies

There has been no better trainer for an ambitious young jockey to be attached to than Andrew Balding in recent years. 

William Buick, David Probert and Oisin Murphy were all riding for his historic Kingsclere Stables when they were crowned champion apprentice. Harry is doing everything he can to follow suit. 

He is certainly bred for the job. His father, Stephen, won the apprentices’ title in 1994 when attached to Sir Henry Cecil. His mum Angie is assistant trainer to Hugo Palmer, while his stepdad Phil Shea, who has helped bring up the teenage rider, is now his agent as well. 

Harry was a star of the British pony racing scene. Ever since he switched to professional racing he has looked a star of the future. It didn’t take long for some of the country’s most powerful trainers to spot his talents. 

The third winner of the 17-year-old’s career came in the famous Godolphin blue colours when he partnered Tranquil Night to victory at Kempton In February. Charlie Appleby has since been a regular supporter, along with Charlie Fellowes, Harry and Roger Charlton, Sean Woods and Hugo Palmer. 

His boss has also provided plenty of opportunities and Harry has grabbed them with both hands. He won a brace of good Newmarket handicaps on smart Shine So Bright and Balding also provided other high-profile winners with the likes of Nate The Great and Frankness. 

His tactical awareness and strength in the saddle will ensure Harry will not give an inch in the battle to be crowned champion apprentice jockey on Qipco British Champions Day.

Check out the latest Championships standings here