Hugh Bowman with Winx at Rosehill racecourse. Media Call. Picture's Darren Leigh Roberts
Hugh Bowman with Winx at Rosehill racecourse. Media Call. Picture's Darren Leigh Roberts

A Hugh year for world’s No.1 jockey

HUGH Bowman returns to Sydney racing at Royal Randwick on Saturday officially acknowledged as the world's best jockey.

But success hasn't changed him. Humility has always ridden with the boy from Dunedoo since the day he became an apprentice jockey nearly 20 years ago.

Bowman might be standing on the summit of world racing but his take on the title and his achievements is typically understated.

"The world's best jockey title is a by-product of getting good opportunities, being consistent and capitalising on those opportunities,'' said Bowman, the first Australian rider to earn the coveted award.

"But I don't think it makes me any better than anyone else.

"I am very proud not so much to be called the best jockey in the world but to be recognised as one of the best jockeys in the world.''

Bowman, 37, always thoughtful and articulate, didn't hesitate when asked who he considered the best jockey in world racing.

"Ryan Moore,'' he said. "He is a freakish talent.

"He might have the support of the almighty Ballydoyle operation but even without them I think he would be doing amazing things.

"The European jockeys do have more opportunity at the top level because logistically it is easier for them to travel to the US as well as all around Europe.

Winx and Hugh Bowman (blue cap) withstand a late charge from Blake Shinn and Humidor (green cap) to register a record-equalling third Cox Plate victory. Picture: Getty Images
Winx and Hugh Bowman (blue cap) withstand a late charge from Blake Shinn and Humidor (green cap) to register a record-equalling third Cox Plate victory. Picture: Getty Images

"But that said Ryan has ridden all over the world and had unbelievable success. He is the benchmark.''

Bowman clinched the World's Best Jockey title when he rode Cheval Grand to a memorable win in the Japan Cup late last year, leaving the Moore-ridden Idaho out of the placings.

"The Japan Cup is such a significant race on the world calendar and I've never really felt what I felt when I won on Cheval Grand,'' Bowman said.

"I thought Cheval Grand was a good winning chance when I picked up the ride. He ran third in it the previous year and ran really well.

"I suppose Winx's first Cox Plate was similar but since then, she is expected to win so the feeling isn't quite the same.''

Cheval Grand's Japan Cup win was one of the great moments of Bowman's celebrated career and capped remarkable 2017 for Bowman where he rode 16 Group 1 winners including a third successive Cox Plate on champion mare Winx.

Hugh Bowman after being awarded 2017 Longines World's Best Jockey Award in Hong Kong last month. Picture: Getty Images
Hugh Bowman after being awarded 2017 Longines World's Best Jockey Award in Hong Kong last month. Picture: Getty Images

Bowman is not usually demonstrative in the saddle but when it became apparent Winx was going to hold off Humidor and win a historic third Cox Plate the jockey started his celebrations 50m out with repeated fist pumps.

"If Humidor had not closed like he did close to the line, I might not have reacted the way I did,'' Bowman said. "But there was such a massive build up for the third Cox Plate, the expectation was there she was going to win.

"So many great champions since the early 1980s have tried to emulate Kingston Town's amazing feat and the best of the best have come up short.''

Bowman said the importance and significance of trainer Chris Waller's management of Winx's race career cannot be understated.

"Obviously, Winx is a rare talent, a once in a lifetime horse,'' Bowman said.

"She can do things most horses can't, even good horses can't do what she does, her consistency is incredible.

"But Chris's structure and discipline about where he runs her has helped her longevity.''

Winx has resumed training at Waller's Rosehill stable base with an expected return to racing likely in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes at Royal Randwick on February 17.

Waller is keeping his options open about Winx's autumn campaign although there is talk of taking the great mare overseas for a two or three-race European campaign including the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Although there is no talk of retirement just yet for Winx, Bowman is aware that the great mare, a rising seven-year-old mare, is closer to the end than the start of her career.

"The time will come where she won't race anymore,'' Bowman said. "It is not much good to me if I sit back and let my career be defined by her. I'd like to think I have plenty more to offer.

"I don't expect to ride another one that can do what Winx has done and is doing.

"But when the time comes I will look forward to the challenge of life after Winx. I'd like to think I have a few good wins in me.''

And if you think Bowman is about to rest on his laurels, think again.

The champion jockey returns to Sydney racing for the first time in nearly three months at Royal Randwick on Saturday - and all he is concentrating on is winning.

"I'd love to come back to ride a winner, or two, or three,'' Bowman said. "I'd like to make my presence felt. But at the end of the day, I will just go out there to try and give my rides their chance and hope it works out.''

Bowman has eight rides at the Randwick meeting including early favourites Scream Park Park (race 1), Awesome Pluck (race 4) and Guard Of Honour (race 6).

Despite Bowman's absence from Sydney racing, he remains very much in premiership contention with 30 wins, just four wins behind joint leaders Brenton Avdulla and Blake Shinn.

It's too early in the season to be talking about premierships as so much can happen over the next six months or so but can Bowman match or better his record-breaking feats of last year?

"I don't think about it that way,'' he said. "I don't say I'm going to make this year better than last year.

"The success I have had over the last 12-24 months, I have to pinch myself at times. I am fortunate to get great opportunities all over the world now.

"But my goal is to justify that position and give the horses I am riding every chance.

"I have a great client base in Sydney. Chris Waller and his stable is significant in my recent success but there is a lot of other stables that give me great support, too.

"At the end of the day you still have to be on the right horses and you have to go out there and get the job done - that is my focus.''

Bowman is at the peak of his riding career but he still retains a boyish enthusiasm for the thrill of competition.

"I might be having success on the track but at the end of the day, I am just trying to live life like everyone else,'' he said.

"I have two young kids and a darling wife, so there is more to life than horse racing. My schedule is very hard on the family, it can be tough.

"But I enjoy the opportunity to ride elite thoroughbreds and as long as I can justify the position I'm in and get the chance to ride good horses, I am very appreciative.''

THE SCORECARD

Hugh Bowman's Group 1s for 2017

Chipping Norton Stakes - Winx

George Ryder Stakes - Winx

The BMW - Jameka

Sire Produce Stakes - Invader

Queen Elizabeth Stakes - Winx

Australian Oaks - Bonneval

George Main Stakes - Winx

Kingsford Smith Stakes - Clearly Innocent

Queensland Derby - Ruthven

Underwood Stakes - Bonneval

Turnbull Stakes - Winx

Cox Plate - Winx

Hong Kong Gold Cup - Werther

Chairman's Sprint Prize - Lucky Bubbles

Champions & Chater Cup - Werther

Japan Cup - Cheval Grand

 

THE RETURN

Bowman's Royal Randwick rides on Saturday

R1: Scream Park - $3.30f

R3: Fortensky - $7.50

R4: Awesome Pluck - $1.80

R5: Medaille - $4.20

R6: Guard Of Honour - $2.60f

R7: Overstep - $6

R8: So Willie - $12

R9: Level Eight - $5.50



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