Racing’s brightest prospects will be looking to follow in some of their heroes’ footsteps in the Apprentice Jockeys Championship.
Oisin Murphy, Tom Marquand and dual‐winner Cieren Fallon have recently topped the apprentice charts, joining the likes of Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore and Hayley Turner on the prestigious roll of honour.
Here we look at some of the leading contenders for this year’s apprentice title in no particular order.
Twitter – Laura Pearson
Pearson made a big impact on the all‐weather during the winter months. The 20‐year‐old impressed with her style and tactical awareness as she notched up 21 winners across December and January.
The All‐weather Champion Apprentice title looked within her grasp until she decided take a break to protect her valuable 5lbs weight claim. The decision is likely to pay off as she is sure to be in demand in many of the summer’s big handicaps.
Pearson rode her first winner two‐and‐a‐half years ago but she really has stepped her game in recent times to put herself right in contention for a title run.
Twitter – Thore Hammer Hansen
He sounds like he could be the hero from an action film and Thore Hammer Hansen has been making a real name for himself in the saddle over the last couple of years.
A steady stream of winners last season didn’t quite develop into a title challenge but his Royal Ascot win on trainer Alan King’s Coeur De Lion in the Ascot Stakes made sure he was thrust into the limelight on the biggest stage.
The 3lbs claimer has experience on his side having ridden a total of 66 winners and German‐born Thore has the backing of his boss Richard Hannon’s powerful stable.
King has also been a regular user of his talents so 21‐year‐old Thore looks likely to be among the leading apprentices once again.
Twitter – Marco Ghiani
There are plenty of similarities between Marco Ghiani and one of the world’s greatest jockeys. The 22‐year‐old was born in Sardinia, the same Italian island where Frankie Dettori’s family hail from, and his first job in Britain was with Dettori’s mentor Luca Cumani.
Marco has a long, long way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as one of the best jockeys to grace British Flat racing but there’s no doubt he has made a promising start to his career.
The 3lbs claimer, who joined Stuart Williams’ Newmarket yard on Cumani’s retirement, is one of the most experienced riders in the title race. His 28 winners during the winter earned Marco the All‐weather Champion Apprentice title.
With less than 30 winners needed to lose his claim, his title challenge will be decided by how well he can cope when he no longer has that weight advantage.
Twitter – Angus Villiers
Teenage jockey Angus Villiers’ career was on an upward curve last autumn when he unfortunately had a suffered an injury.
He had equalled his best monthly total of five winners last October and had just been booked for his first ride for Godolphin at Wolverhampton. Sadly, that first appearance in the Royal Blue of Sheikh Mohammed’s powerful operation ended in the worst possible way.
A bad fall from Arabian Warrior put him in hospital with a punctured liver and he was forced to spend three months of the track as he recovered.
The 19‐year‐old returned in March and has picked up where he left off – by riding winners. He is sure to get plenty of opportunities for his boss, Richard Spencer, and he had the honour of riding Lilkian to victory at Kempton to give Daryl Holland his first winner as a trainer.
All the signs are that Angus, who starts the season with a 5lbs claim, is set on making up for lost time and that must put him in the frame in the race to be Champion Apprentice.
Twitter – Saffie Osborne
Saffie Osborne certainly has the pedigree to be a successful jockey. The 19‐year‐old is the daughter of former top jumps jockey and now Flat trainer Jamie Osborne, and she seems to have inherited plenty of the old man’s talent in the saddle.
She enjoyed a decent start to her racing career last season and impressed plenty of judges when partnering seven winners in September at a 22 per cent strike rate.
Dad, now a Group 1 winning‐trainer, supplied most of the ammunition but Saffie also rode winners for Richard Fahey and Harry Dunlop, among others.
A broken arm suffered in a crunching Windsor fall kept her off the track in the winter but that may be a blessing in disguise where her title challenge is concerned.
It means her 7lbs weight claim remains intact for now and that advantage is sure to make her popular with a lot of trainers. Osborne is also a successful eventer but her focus now is on racing with the Apprentice title firmly in her sights.
Freddie Larson has taken an unusual route to a career in the saddle. The 21‐year‐old, like many young lads, dreamed of being a footballer. He went further than most to releasing that dream as a trainee at Premier League club Crystal Palace.
His slight frame might not have been a help on the football pitch but it has certainly helped since switching sports. Freddie, who is based with shrewd Rutland‐based trainer Mick Appleby, made an immediate impression when winning on his very first ride.
Huge congratulations to Freddie Larson on riding his first winner from his very first ride @Southwell_Races for boss @MickApplebyUK.— Great British Racing (@GBRacing) December 9, 2020
A former semi-pro footballer, he only sat on a horse for the first time a year and a half ago!
🎥 @AtTheRaces pic.twitter.com/nWY02g2YpR
That initial victory on Thrave at South has been followed by three more. He might lack the experience of some of his title rivals but he could easily be the surprise package of this year’s apprentice title race.