Jockeys to watch We talk to three young riders with high hopes for this season
Marcus Armytage talks to three young jockeys, who have recently turned professional, about their hopes this season
JAMES BOWEN 16yo, 7lb claimer with Nicky henderson
THE name Bowen needs no introduction, even less so in Wales. James’ father, Peter, trains in Pembrokeshire and older brother Sean is already well established as a jump jockey.
His other brother Mickey supplied him “with so many steering jobs” when he started, that his 30 point-to-point winners since his 16th birthday in March came at a staggering strikerate of 55%.
Home-schooled since the age of 14, James rode 80 winners on the pony racing circuit and was only ever going to do half a point-to-point season before turning professional.
There was naturally going to be a clamour for his services and it was reigning champion trainer Nicky Henderson who won that battle — James joined him in mid-October.
Old sages will say it is better if he does not tear through his claim quickly and, with Henderson — quite apart from having to fight for his share of the rides with the established jockeys at Seven Barrows — the focus is likely to be on quality, rather than quantity.
He may also have to demur to his big brother on the Bowen runners, unless they need a claimer on board.
“There were a couple of places I could have gone, but I’m settling in well at Mr Henderson’s,” he says. “I’d like to give the conditional jockeys’ title a good go, but we’ll see how it works out.”
BRYONY FROST 22yo, 5lb claimer with Paul Nicholls
BRYONY grew up in a training environment on Dartmoor, the daughter of 1989 Grand National-winning jockey Jimmy Frost and sister of former professional, Hadden. Bryony rode 56 point-to-point winners at a 20% strikerate before she sprang to national prominence when she rode Pacha Du Polder to victory in the 2017 Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival. It was just the launchpad she needed.
“It was a now or never moment,” she says, adding that she has the full support of her boss, Paul Nicholls. “It makes the bills easier to pay. At least the diesel is going to be covered now!”
Half her six winners since turning professional have come on Black Corton, with the hat-trick achieved in a £18,000 race at Newton Abbot. And as you’d expect with her upbringing, her feet are firmly on the ground.
“Dad taught me never to look at the value of a race until you’ve ridden in it,” she adds. “Because a £1k race is as important as a £20k race. I don’t set goals, nor do I set limits. I don’t look at the top of the mountain, but if you keep your head down and go one step forward every time, you’ll get there eventually.”
She still speaks to her father “up to six times” a day and tries to have dinner with him and her mother at Honiton — halfway between Ditcheat and Dartmoor — once a week if she can, adding, “whoever you are, everyone needs support”.
MITCHELL BASTYAN 19yo, 7lb claimer with evan williams
MITCHELL was brought up in Yeovil. His mum is a fitness instructor and his dad is a former marine, who is now involved in search and rescue. Mitchell started riding ponies aged eight and joined the Pony Club, focusing on showjumping and cross-country.
On leaving school, he joined Jack Barber’s West Country point-to-point yard for two years.
Mitchell then went to Kerry Lee and, when he wanted to turn professional, he joined Brian Barr. His first ride as a conditional, Veauce De Sivola at Lingfield in March, was a winner and he has not looked back since.
Moving to Evan Williams in June, he has rapidly ridden 19 winners, including a double at Chepstow at the meeting which is generally considered the start of the jump season proper.
“My aim is to keep doing what I’m doing and not get too far in front of myself,” he says. “But it was nice to have winners at the first big meeting of the season.”
‘My aim is to keep doing what I’m doing, not get ahead of myself ’ Mitchell bastyan