The battle for the 2020 Apprentice Championship crown began this week as the 7lb claimers follow the 5lb and 3lb claimers back into action. As always, there will be a number of high-flying young jockeys in contention for the championship once again this year. The highly coveted prize can propel a young unknown rider into the limelight, previous winners include Oisin Murphy, William Buick, Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori. Here are leading lights (in no particular order) to take the Champion Apprentice title this year.
Thore Hammer Hansen
The apprentice jockey attached to Richard Hannon was born in Cologne, Germany and is the son of ex-jockey turned trainer Lennart Hammer Hansen who rode over 1,000 winners during his career in Scandinavia and Hong Kong. The youngster caught the eye as an apprentice going places on many occasions last season and has already kicked off the 2020 Flat campaign in fantastic style. Having registered a landmark first Royal Ascot success when producing Coeur De Lion with an exquisitely-timed run to land the 2 mile 4 furlong Ascot Stakes last week. A hugely impressive feat given that that victory was just his third ride since March.
As an apprentice to Richard Hughes, Angus Villiers has continued on an upward trend having had a thoroughly successful winter on the All-Weather. Angus has 23 victories to his name in his fledgling career and will be hoping this season can provide a springboard to bigger and better things. It certainly hasn't taken him long to get back into the grove of things following lockdown as he landed his first winner on his racecourse reappearence at Chelmsford last Tuesday.
It hasn't always been plain sailing for young Connor Murtagh. Complex heart surgery has at time's threatened his career, but he has continued to battle, and he will be hoping this year will be his most successful to date. Based in the north of the country, at Richard Fahey's you can be sure that the youngster will be given every opportunity. The Group1 winning trainer is well renowned for his upbringing of apprentice jockeys and has brought on previous title winners Paul Hanagan and Freddy Tylicki. Murtagh could well be next up as he is sure to receive a steady stream of rides from the powerful Musley Bank Stables.
George hails from Hook in Hampshire, where he grew up taking part in show jumping and other equestrian disciplines. He then graduated from the British Racing School before joining the team at Richard Hughes' yard. George stormed onto the scene earlier this year when he landed a very memorable treble at Southwell. The apprentice to Richard Hughes has every chance of ending the year on top as he continues to pick up a steady stream of rides. Since his return last Monday, the young jockey has claimed 3 winners from his 21 rides.
Grace began riding when she was around 5-6 years old, riding a horse trained by her father Phil McCentee named Thoughtsofstardom. Being brought up around horses has only fed her passion for the sport and ever since she landed her first winner in early 2019, she has gone from strength to strength. Over the course of her career Grace has had over 250 rides with the large majority of her winner's coming on the All-Weather. Grace was back in the winner's enclosure last weekend as she landed her first victory following the resumption of racing at Kempton.
Marco Ghiani began his career with one of the sport's great pioneers, Luca Cumani. However, shortly after beginning his apprenticeship Cumani retired. Ghiani said. "Luca was very nice to me, he explained things properly and taught me a lot." He then moved to Stuart Williams and continues to take big steps forward. Towards the end of 2019 he rode out his 7lb claim and he has begun this year well having claimed a winner on board Gert Lush in his first week back in the saddle.