ja­son Wat­son

David Cor­mack on a young rider who has made a big im­pact this sea­son

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

In­ter­view with the ex­cit­ing young jockey

The 2018 Flat sea­son has seen the emer­gence of some fan­tas­tic equine tal­ent. Wil­liam Hag­gas’ Arc run­ner-up Sea Of Class surely heads the list of pre­vi­ously un­raced horses el­e­vated to the top of the pile dur­ing the course of the year and with star two-year-olds such as Too Darn Hot and Ten Sovereigns to look for­ward to next sea­son there is no doubt that the 2018 Flat sea­son’s equine par­tic­i­pants cer­tainly did their bit to keep rac­ing’s star shin­ing brightly.

But sev­eral pre­vi­ously un­her­alded hu­mans have also played a part in mak­ing it a sea­son to re­mem­ber and within the ranks of ap­pren­tice jock­eys a cham­pion has emerged whose fu­ture ca­reer will be as ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated as any of the horses we are wait­ing to see next year.

There are no guar­an­tees that a glit­ter­ing ap­pren­tice will be able to trans­late that prom­ise and tal­ent into a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a top jockey. For ev­ery Frankie Det­tori, Ryan Moore or Oisin Mur­phy, all for­mer cham­pion ap­pren­tices who have gone on to great things in the game, there is an­other who will find the tran­si­tion from ap­pren­tice to fully fledged jockey a dif­fi­cult leap to make.

But, if you were a bet­ting man, you’d surely be sorely tempted to have a flut­ter on 2018’s cham­pion ap­pren­tice, Ja­son Wat­son, be­ing one of those likely to bridge the gap.

Wat­son crowned his cham­pi­onship sea­son by win­ning the hugely com­pet­i­tive Stew­ard’s Cup on Hugo Palmer’s Gifted Master and the list of train­ers who have been clam­our­ing to se­cure his ser­vices is tes­ta­ment to the re­gard in which he is clearly held by the in­di­vid­u­als who can make or break a jockey’s ca­reer.

As well as Palmer, Saeed Bin Suroor has been an en­thu­si­as­tic sup­porter of Wat­son and he’s also rid­den win­ners for Char­lie Hills, Amanda Per­rett, Hughie Mor­ri­son, Clive Cox, David Elsworth, Karl Burke and Gary Moore (among many oth­ers). Over 120 dif­fer­ent train­ers have booked him, quite an amaz­ing statis­tic for a rider who came into 2018 hav­ing pre­vi­ously rid­den only two win­ners.

But it is An­drew Bald­ing, with whom Wat­son is based, who has been the key guid­ing hand be­hind the young jockey’s de­vel­op­ment. Bald­ing has a lengthy and dis­tin­guished record of iden­ti­fy­ing and pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for tal­ented young rid­ers and Wil­liam Buick, David Probert and Oisin Mur­phy have all won the ap­pren­tice ti­tle while serv­ing their time at Kingsclere.

Wat­son, from Lewes in Sus­sex, is the son of a post­man and boasts no fam­ily back­ground in the sport. He started rid­ing at six years old and de­cided at an early age that rac­ing was the path he wanted to fol­low in life. He had an early, in­flu­en­tial, ed­u­ca­tion from for­mer jockey Ray Gold­stein, who ran the rid­ing school that Wat­son went to for lessons as a child. Gold­stein spot­ted the young rider’s nat­u­ral abil­ity and quickly flagged his tal­ent to Wat­son’s par­ents.

Leav­ing school at 13 in favour of home school­ing, Wat­son ad­mits to not be­ing aca­dem­i­cally in­clined. “My par­ents em­ployed a teacher and they were sup­posed to come in once a week and set you work, but I saw them about twice a year and that was the end of that.” So, as he de­scribes it him­self, he has put all of life’s eggs “in one bas­ket”.

Time with Gary Moore and Tres Ab­bott (in the States) pre­ceded Wat­son’s time with Bald­ing but it is at Kingsclere that he has learned his

trade and also gained in ed­u­ca­tion into the less glam­orous side of rac­ing. Part of his daily rou­tine is to chip in with the more mun­dane tasks that make up daily life in the yard. Early starts and muck­ing out help keep his feet on the ground and pro­vide the dis­ci­pline nec­es­sary to cope with what can be a tough life once that in­valu­able claim has gone.

Wat­son is coached by for­mer top jockey John Reid, a Derby and Arc De Tri­om­phe win­ning pi­lot him­self. The sup­port team is com­pleted by top agent Tony Hind, re­spon­si­ble for guid­ing Ryan Moore, Richard Hughes and Jim Crow­ley to their se­nior jockey’s ti­tles. Hind’s con­tacts and cred­i­bil­ity have un­doubt­edly played a big part in en­sur­ing that Wat­son’s mer­cu­rial tal­ent has not only been noted but has also been trans­lated into rides. That Hind, who favours qual­ity over quan­tity, has cho­sen him to join his select list of clients is surely an in­di­ca­tion in it­self of the re­gard in which the young­ster’s tal­ent is held.

Once an ap­pren­tice is iden­ti­fied as be­ing strong value for his claim the op­por­tu­ni­ties do nor­mally open up but it is once the claim is no longer avail­able that many start to wa­ver.

With a strong team be­hind him and a le­gion of ad­mir­ers within the train­ing ranks you sense that it is only Wat­son him­self that can de­rail his chances of reach­ing the very top. That, or phys­i­cal prob­lems such as in­jury or dif­fi­cul­ties main­tain­ing his weight.

With a weight that hov­ers around 8st 6lbs (al­though he’s rid­den as low as 8st 1lb in the last year), Wat­son ben­e­fits from not be­ing tall but he de­scribes him­self as hav­ing a ‘broad build’. He may need to dig into the re­serves of dis­ci­pline be­ing built un­der Bald­ing’s tute­lage to help him man­age his weight in years to come if he does have any grow­ing still to do.

Ap­pren­tice Oisin Mur­phy is the most re­cent high pro­file fol­lower of the path Wat­son is on and with his hero Ryan Moore hav­ing also fol­lowed the same route Wat­son has plenty role mod­els in the weigh­ing room to turn to. Mur­phy, a fairly re­cent grad­u­ate of the Bald­ing school of ap­pren­tice jock­eys him­self, has been help­ful to the 18 year old ap­pren­tice and his own rapid rise from star ap­pren­tice to holder of one of rac­ing’s most pres­ti­gious rid­ing jobs must surely give en­cour­age­ment to the younger jockey.

Things hap­pen quickly when you are a top ap­pren­tice on the fast track to the top but every­thing ap­pears to be in place to al­low Ja­son Wat­son ev­ery chance of mak­ing a suc­cess of things as he looks for­ward to that po­ten­tially tricky first sea­son com­pet­ing on equal terms as a top-flight pro­fes­sional.

Ja­son Wat­son on Three Lit­tle Birds

Sim­ply Breath­less and Ja­son Wat­son win the 1m Fil­lies Hand­i­cap at As­cot on Sept 8 from Aman­dine and David Egan

An­drew Bald­ing

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