Bri­tish cham­pion jockey Crow­ley to ride for Sheikh Ham­dan.

Hana­gan had a short stint but Sheikh Ham­dan’s new main rider tells Ge­of­frey Rid­dle he has all what it takes even at age 38

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Jim Crow­ley knows the mean­ing of hard graft. It will be a use­ful at­tribute for Sheikh Ham­dan bin Rashid’s new No 1 rider both at the Dubai World Cup Carnival that starts at Mey­dan Racecourse on Jan­uary 7, and back in Europe and be­yond.

Crow­ley, 38, put his body on the line this au­tumn as he wrested the Bri­tish jock­eys’ ti­tle away from the grasp of Sil­vestre De Sousa, the for­mer Godol­phin rider, who looked to have the cham­pi­onship wrapped up in late sum­mer. A de­ter­mined Crow­ley threw him­self into the chal­lenge of try­ing to usurp De Sousa. While he was re­warded with the ti­tle a few weeks af­ter he had sealed the cham­pi­onship in mid-Oc­to­ber, he was in­volved in a four-horse pile-up that left fel­low jockey Freddy Tylicki paralysed be­low the waist.

Crow­ley’s nose was bro­ken and he was kicked and mauled all over so much that it took him six weeks to re­cover. When The Na­tional sat down to dis­cuss his new ap­point­ment in place of the Paul Hana­gan, it is like com­ing face-to-face with Crow­ley 2.0.

Gone are the sunken sock­ets, the haunt­ingly de­ter­mined look. They have been re­placed by a fuller, more sat­is­fied ver­sion. His nose is even fairly straight. Crow­ley rode over 1,000 mounts in Bri­tain in 2016.

There will be no such ter­ri­fy­ing de­mands on his time in Dubai, where there are 15 fix­tures at Mey­dan from now un­til World Cup night on March 25.

But Crow­ley does not in­tend on hav­ing a re­lax­ing time.

“It is not my style to sit back and take it easy,” Crow­ley said. “It’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing and I am very much look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge.

“The more you ride the bet­ter you are and it keeps your eye in. “Wher­ever Sheikh Ham­dan has run­ners I will go, and pos­si­bly will go if I don’t.”

At the busi­ness end of his tus­sle with De Sousa, Crow­ley em­ployed a driver and reg­u­larly criss-crossed Bri­tain by air.

“To­wards the end I was do­ing a lot of flights but we you can only do it twice a week be­cause you are only al­lowed to ride at nine meet­ings a week in Bri­tain,” he said. “We would plan where we were go­ing and look if there were two tracks close by.

“Sil­vestre is prob­a­bly the tough­est man to come up against. He has no weight trou­bles and is built like a lit­tle tank.

“He is strong and horses run for him, and we had a re­ally good ding-dong. “Like any­thing it made me stronger and bet­ter. You have to raise your game. I would say he needed a hol­i­day af­ter that, too.”

Crow­ley is the ob­vi­ous choice to re­place Hana­gan, but in many ways he also is a cu­ri­ous one. Sheikh Ham­dan has proven to be a loyal owner in the past, but does Hana­gan’s ex­pe­ri­ence leave Crow­ley a lit­tle ner­vous go­ing into one of the big­gest jobs in world rac­ing?

“I am not think­ing stuff like that,” he said. “All I can do is my job on the track.

“I am not think­ing what is go­ing to hap­pen. I just have to take it day by day. “You can only do your best.” Crow­ley has come through the ranks.

His par­ents were in point-to­point rac­ing and he started out as a jumps jockey.

He made the switch to the flat in 2006 and was rid­ing for Ralph Beck­ett in 2010.

In 2014 he went free-lance and was re­tained briefly by Jim Hay, the Dubai-based busi­ness­man.

He has lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence rid­ing top-class horses at the high­est level. When you ask him what is the best horse he has rid­den, in­stead of say­ing Lord Shanakill, the horse on which he won the 2009 Prix Jean Prat – one of three wins at the high­est level on his CV – he men­tions Tal­ent, the stay­ing filly who won a Corona­tion Cup with­out him.

It is the one of three un­knowns about him. The oth­ers are how he will adapt to rid­ing reg­u­larly on the dirt of the UAE and rid­ing Sheikh Ham­dan’s beloved Ara­bi­ans.

Richard Hills knows acutely what it takes to op­er­ate in the role, hav­ing rid­den for Sheikh Ham­dan for 18 years. The three-time Dubai World Cup night win­ner still works within the Shad­well um­brella as as­sis­tant rac­ing man­ager to Angus Gold.

Hills will act as Crow­ley’s chap­er­one in Dubai dur­ing the buildup to the first Carnival fix­ture.

He will in­tro­duce Sheikh Ham­dan to his re­tained jockey for the first time and will show him around the yards of the likes of Doug Watson, Mus­abbeh Al Mheiri, Er­wan Charpy and Mike De Kock, who all train for the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance.

Hills re­vealed why Crow­ley topped the short­list. “We spoke to all of the train­ers,” he said.

“Jim has been rid­ing with tremen­dous con­fi­dence all year and worked very hard for his ti­tle, too.

“He is a nice guy and ticked all the right boxes.

“I have no doubt he can step up to rid­ing the good horses. I have rid­den against him and he won’t be fazed by it.

“I spoke with my brother Michael, who rides work with Hugo Palmer, and Jim’s feed­back there has been ex­cel­lent.”

Crow­ley got off the mark with his first ride for his prom­i­nent re­tainer when he guided Naseem to a five-length win at Chelms­ford on De­cem­ber 22.

De­spite Hana­gan’s short-lived time in the fa­mous blue and white silks, Crow­ley hopes to oc­cupy the po­si­tion for a very long time.

“As a jockey there is no point in be­ing good at one thing,” he said.

“You have to be a good judge of a horse and pace. It helps if you are strong at the fin­ish and tac­ti­cally aware. You have to get off the horse and be able to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple. “I am a good horse­man and I have grown up with horses all of my life. I am a good judge of a horse. You never stop im­prov­ing though. Look at Mick Ki­nane – he was best on Sea The Stars aged 50.”

Alan Crowhurst / Getty Im­ages

Jim Crow­ley got a guard of hon­our in Oc­to­ber af­ter be­com­ing the Bri­tish cham­pion jockey at As­cot, Eng­land.

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