The 2018 Stobart Flat Jockey Championship kicks off at Newmarket

Features | 4th May 2018

After an incredible end to the Jumps season that saw Richard Johnson crowned Stobart Champion Jump Jockey for a third time, the Stobart Flat Jockeys Championship officially kicks off this Saturday, 5th May 2018 at the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket.

Brazilian Silvestre de Sousa stormed to last season’s title to be crowned champion for the second time at QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on 21st October 2017.

De Sousa determined to retain his title

Last season saw Silvestre de Sousa wrestle his title back from Jim Crowley after a tantalising loss the year before.

In 2017 de Sousa hardly gave his rivals a chance, having reached 100 winners by August 2017 just 96 days after the Championship began. Highlights included a six-timer on 16th June spread across two courses (Sandown and Goodwood), as well as the Cesarewitch aboard Withhold at Newmarket on 14th October.

The Brazilian finished the season with 155 winners from 855 winners at a strike rate of 18%, leaving him a huge 44 winners ahead of his nearest rival Jim Crowley.

And de Sousa is under no illusions about the challenges he will face to lift the trophy for a third time.

He said: “It was an incredible feeling winning the Stobart Flat Jockeys Championship for the second time last year.

“I know deep down how much hard work went into it, not only from myself but also my team around me, and it’s going to be even tougher this time round with guys like William (Buick) and Oisin (Murphy) chasing me.

“But I’ve had a great rest in the off season and I now feel like I am riding better than ever before. I’ve got some great rides in the QIPCO 2000 & 1000 Guineas in Nebo and Dan’s Dream so I’m hoping to kick off my defence with a bang.

“I am extremely focussed on keeping the trophy and would love to make it a hat-trick, so let’s see what happens!”

2017 final table

The contenders make their case

This year will once again be a competitive affair with plenty of jockeys holding viable claims to the title.

Alongside De Sousa and Crowley, Ryan Moore is likely to be in the running come October, whilst the depth of horses available to the likes of Andrea Atzeni, James Doyle and Danny Tudhope means they will attempt to make the most of their rides throughout the season.

However, Godolphin retained William Buick and Qatar Racing’s Oisin Murphy believe they have as good a shot as anyone at the title.

Buick, 29, who rides as a first jockey for Charlie Appleby, got off to a flying start in last year’s Championship and was level with de Sousa at the top of the standings at the end of May, before suffering an injury that curtailed his season in August.

However the Newmarket-based jockey has had an impressive off-season, winning the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic in March while he also won the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup last weekend.

14 wins from 42 races on British soil this year at a strike rate of 33% is also a profitable return for the Newmarket-based jockey, which includes the bet365 Craven Stakes with Masar and the same horse has a great chance in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas on Saturday.

‘If I can stay fit hopefully I’ll be there or there abouts at the end of the season’

Another jockey who is on a high following a superb off-season is 22-year-old Oisin Murphy.

Murphy is the leading 2018 jockey thus far with 67 wins from 355 rides at a strike rate of 19%, 19 clear of Luke Morris in second place.

The Lambourn-based jockey also won the Dubai Turf in March, and he talked up his own chances in this year’s Championship while remaining impressed with de Sousa’s determination to retain his title.

“I’ve got some very good contacts now and some good trainers behind me. As well as Sheikh Fahad, and the Qatar racing banner, I also have support from the likes of Andrew Balding, Saeed Bin Suroor, Ralph Beckett, Brian Meehan, Archie Watson and Martyn Meade,” Murphy said.

“I’ve got lots of support and obviously want to do well for them all. I’ve been grafting at home and fingers crossed it will pay off on the track this season.

“Every year I try my best to win as many winners as I can in the Stobart Flat Jockeys Championship.  If I can stay fit, with all the trainers I have providing me with horses, hopefully I’ll ride plenty of winners and be there or there abouts at the end of the season.

“Silvestre will be going here, there and everywhere to ride winners, he’s very hungry. He is definitely the jockey to catch once again this year.”