Crowley Calls It: “This is a nice horse. I’ve always liked him”
The Champion Jockey gives you the lowdown on his weekend rides and looks back on his experience in Dubai…
The last few months have been good, and it was fantastic to go out to Dubai for the Carnival. Over the years I have been backwards and forwards to Dubai, but I’ve never been based out there for the whole period as I was this year. It was really interesting riding out for some different trainers, like Doug Watson and Mike De Kock. I really enjoyed my time out there and we did really well. I managed to finish up the top rider at the Carnival which was good.
Dubai World Cup night was a bit of a washout because of the rain, as it scuppered a few of our chances. The last three months has been fantastic. It’s almost been like a working holiday really. When I’ve been used to riding 6 or even 12 horses a day, and chasing my tail around the country, to be able to go to Dubai, ride three or four days a week, meant I was able to recharge my batteries as well.
Dubai was just a great experience all round. You never stop learning in this game. I’ve been doing it for a long time now, and I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden all over the world, and whenever you come back to England those trips and experiences do your riding a lot of good. You always come back a better jockey.
I’m 38 years old but Flat jockeys don’t really peak until their late 30’s early 40’s or so they say anyway. Mick Kinane for example was lucky enough to have Sea The Stars come along when he was 50 years old. Nowadays people are even fitter and more aware of their diets and nutrition. It’s not like the old days where jockeys would just turn up and ride. Now we concentrate much more on our overall fitness and well-being. In this day and age there is no reason why I can’t ride on into my 50’s.
I like to be kept busy, I like riding every day, and I like riding winners, big and small. Big winners are what makes everybody tick, but on the other hand I rode four winners a few days ago and I enjoyed that a great deal. When you come back here and you are riding on the grass, with all the undulations at various tracks, it’s much more demanding. In Dubai you are riding on nice, flat tracks which make it a lot easier to ride than many of the tracks back in England. When you come back here and start riding at your Baths, Epsom’s and tricky tracks like that, it’s much more of a test and that’s what I enjoy most.
I’ve ridden in the UK on the all-weather many times before through the winter and believe me it’s a very long winter indeed when you are doing that. This time I’ve come back from Dubai as fresh as a daisy and I’m looking forward to the season ahead.
With the new retainer for Sheikh Hamdan I’m trying to get to know as many of the horses as possible. I met the boss a couple of times in Dubai. He’s very knowledgeable about his horses and knows the pedigrees inside and out. He certainly doesn’t miss much. He has a lot more horses this year than he has had for a few years so I’m trying to ride out as much as possible for the various trainers, within reason, without cooking myself for the afternoon as well. So I’m concentrating on the better horses and hopefully it will all fall into place as the season cracks on.
Richard Hills and Angus Gold are my main points of contact and I speak to them after every horse I’ve ridden, and everything gets noted and logged. Richard still rides plenty of work in Newmarket and Dane O’Neill is the number two jockey and is very involved so it’s a big team effort. It’s very exciting. There are only four big riding jobs in racing – Coolmore, Goodolphin, Prince Khaled Abdullah and Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum – and to land one of those jobs is fantastic.
I’ve never really set myself goals, but I’d like to be Champion again. I don’t know how it will work. It may be a little bit harder being retained but on the plus side I will have lots and lots of nice horses to ride so that might work in my favour.
1.30 Kempton – Mesosphere
I don’t know a great deal about this horse. He’s had two runs and has the blinkers on first time. Hopefully he can run well and start the day of with a winner.
Kempton, along with Newcastle, are the two fairest, most galloping all weather tracks. Nine times out of ten the best horse wins the race. It’s a long three furlong straight, and a cutaway, which gives every horse a clear run to the line. I’m a big fan of Kempton and have ridden a lot of winners there over the years. I’m very happy to be going there on Saturday rather than Doncaster. I’m definitely in the ‘Save Kempton’ camp as it will be a terrible shame if it goes. A lot of Lambourn yards, and the southern based trainers, love to race their horses there and for me it is the best all-weather track in the South.
2.05 Kempton – Linguistic
Linguistic is the favourite for this. He hasn’t run since Royal Ascot but he looked very progressive up until then. He was a short head second to Viren’s Army at Chester in May and he takes him on again. Viren’s Army has won recently in Dubai. It is a tight little race and I think it will be between those two again. Obviously it’s nice to get a call up by Godolphin and John Gosden and I’m very hopeful of a big run.
2.40 Kempton – Solar Flair
This is a really nice horse. I won a decent race on him at Nottingham last year. He went to Dubai and it just didn’t happen for him. With Dubai horses either love it or they don’t, and it just didn’t work out for him. He looks like he could be a decent sprint handicapper this year. He’ll certainly pay his way this year over the summer.
3.15 Kempton – Southdown Lad
This is a nice horse. I’ve always liked him. William Knight’s horses are in great form at the moment. I had a winner for him the other day. William says the horse is in really good form so I’m hopeful of a nice run. William trains at Angmering Park, where Lady Herries used to train. It’s a beautiful yard, great facilities. It’s absolutely fantastic down there. We’ve had some good success together over the years. I was lucky enough to win decent races on Illustrious Blue, including the Goodwood Cup, and William’s always been a big supporter of mine over the years.
3.50 Kempton – Manaahil
I rode work on Manaahil the other day down at Charlie Hills. She has a lovely pedigree. I know Barry Hills likes her a lot. She’s not an over-big filly but she’s been doing all the right things at home. It’s first time out so you never know what you’re going to get but from what we’ve seen at home she seems to have a decent engine. It looks a tight race. There are a couple in there with more experience than her, but I’m hopeful that she could run well and go on to better things.
6.15 Chelmsford – Mudaarab
I don’t know too much about Mudaarab. He’s beautifully bred and should be a decent prospect but it is his first time on a racecourse so I’m looking forward to riding him and getting to know more about him.
7.45 Chelmsford – Farook
Farook had three runs last year. I rode him in work the other day and he’s going nicely. It’s his first run of the year so I’m hopeful he can run a good race.
On Sunday I have three rides, with Muntahaa looking the pick in the 3.55 for John Gosden. He finished fourth in the St Leger when running very keen. He was well fancied that day and ran too free. The time before he won at Chester beating a nice horse of Andrew Balding’s that I know well. Dropping back to a mile and a half will suit. He could be a decent tool this year. I imagine the plan will be to get him relaxed and hopefully he can run a big race.