While British racing was shut down for ten weeks the sport continued elsewhere under coronavirus protocols. NICHOLAS GODFREY identifies the jockeys who have enhanced their reputations during an unprecedented period.
1. Johnny Allen (Australia)
Usually based in Melbourne, the former Irish jump jockey took a risk by putting himself into two weeks’ quarantine to ride at the Adelaide Carnivale. The result? G1 triumph over successive weekends at Morphettville, where he partnered new star Russian Camelot to win the South Australian Derby before landing the Goodwood on Godolphin sprinter Trekking. Having emigrated in 2011, 35-year-old Allen now has ten G1s to his name in Australia.
2. Pierre-Charles Boudot (France)
Mammoth cards following the restart in France on May 11 were much to the liking of the Arc-winning rider, who is setting a furious pace at the head of the race for the Cravache d’Or with 15 wins in the fortnight before June 5. Among his recent winners are Royal Ascot hope Wooded and Prix du Jockey Club favourite Ocean Atlantique. With 73 winners (as at June 7), Boudot is already well ahead in the title race, leading Christophe Soumillon by 20.
3. Abel Cedillo (USA)
After ten years on the northern California circuit, primarily based at Golden Gate Fields, the Guatemalan moved south in 2019 and quickly established himself as a force in one of the most competitive circuits in the States. Winning races in bunches since the resumption at Santa Anita in mid-May, notably on the Memorial Day Bank Holiday card, where a Grade 1 success on Keeper Ofthe Stars in the Gamely Stakes provided the highlight. Landed two more Graded stakes that same week. Exited last weekend second in the Santa Anita jockey standings, trailing Flavien Prat 75-57.
4. Lyle Hewitson (Japan)
Dual South African champion went to Japan in March after cutting short a six-month contract in Hong Kong, where he endured what might be termed a ‘character-building’ barren spell. By the time he waved ‘sayonara’ to the Far East, the 22-year-old had ridden a more-than-respectable 19 winners during the course of a short-term two-month contract on the fiercely competitive Japan Racing Association circuit. He rode five winners in Tokyo on his final weekend, including the Grade 2 Aoba Sho on Authority.
5. Vincent Ho (Hong Kong)
One of the success stories of the Hong Kong season, Ho earned headlines for his association with HK Derby winner Golden Sixty, aboard whom he became the first homegrown jockey to win the ‘4YO Classic’ for 25 years since Tony Cruz in 1995 on Makarpura Star. As prestigious as that was, the HK Derby is a restricted race and therefore lacks international Group 1 status – but Ho duly opened his account at those giddy heights with his victory on Southern Legend in the FWD Champions Mile at Sha Tin at the end of April.
6. Tom Marquand (Australia)
While colleagues at home were left kicking their heels, the hugely impressive 22-year-old took Sydney’s Autumn Carnival by storm, winning a pair of Group 1 events on the William Haggas-trained Addeybb, latterly with a memorable success in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the most valuable race at the Sydney Championships meeting at Randwick. He rode 26 winners in Australia altogether, winning many admirers, and returned to Britain with a reputation massively enhanced – and duly won the Lingfield Derby Trial on new Derby fancy English King plus a ride for Ballydoyle in the Guineas.
7. James McDonald (Australia)
Top Sydney rider looks sure to add another metropolitan premiership to his laurels after a prolific second half of the season featuring no fewer than 11 Group wins in less a month in March. A brilliant all-Group-race four-timer at Rosehill on Golden Slipper day was the obvious highlight; ‘Jimmy Mack’ also landed the TJ Smith Stakes on Nature Strip. Has re-established himself as one of the world’s top riders at #6 on the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary’s exclusive global rankings.
8. Mickaelle Michel (Japan)
A shooting star on the Japanese scene by the time coronavirus landed, the French jockey ended a prolific spell on Japan’s National Association of Racing tracks with a hugely creditable 30 victories in a two-month period. It was a record for a foreign rider in Japan on a short-term contract; for good measure, she also scored on her first ride back in France last month and was narrowly beaten in an Italian Group race.
9. Bauyrzhan Murzabayev (Germany)
Germany’s champion jockey is carrying on where he left off in 2019 and leads the title race with 31 winners (from 157 rides). Little known outside Germany, the 27-year-old Kazakh has yet to have a winner above G3 level but landed his seventh in that grade (including a Czech Derby in 2016!) when he partnered Soul Train to win the Derby Trial at Baden-Baden on May 24 for trainer Andreas Wohler, who provides much of his ammunition. By the way, he’s known as ‘Borschan’ to his fans. After all, it’s understandable they might want to give him a nickname.
10. Flavien Prat (USA)
Flavien Prat, who leads the standings at Santa Anita, became the first jockey for 14 years to ride a six-timer at ‘The Great Race Place’ on Sunday May 17, just the third day of racing after the resumption. It was the first time the feat had been achieved since Rafael Bejarano in April 2006 and only the 12th time altogether – or 13, if you include the only seven-timer, by Laffit Pincay on March 14, 1987. Prat was fifth in the national prize-money list for 2019 when his earnings were bumped up by the Kentucky Derby, where the winner Country House was also ‘bumped up’ by the stewards.
11. Zac Purton (Hong Kong)
Went into lockdown trailing arch rival Joao Moreira in the Hong Kong jockey premiership. Entered June having seized back the advantage as he bids to win his fourth title, having achieved a landmark victory aboard Exultant in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup when he became the first jockey ever to claim all 12 of the territory’s internationally recognised Group 1 contests. The HK season ends at Happy Valley on July 15.
Photo credits: Johnny Allen: Racing and Sports; Pierre-Charles Boudot: France Galop/scoopdyga.com (Elliott Chouraqui); Abel Cedillo: Benoit; Lyle Hewitson: HKJC; Vincent Ho: HKJC; Tom Marquand: Steve Hart Photographics (stevehart.com.au); James McDonald: ATC; Mickaelle Michel: Masakazu Takahashi; Bauyrzhan Murzabayev: Marc Rühl/Deutscher Galopp; Flavien Prat: Benoit; Zac Purton: HKJC