Dominant De Sousa shows once again what a world-class rider he is

Silvestre de Sousa celebrates winning the Longines International Jockeys Championship at Happy Valley yesterday. Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club

Here at TRC we are delighted our Global Rankings are proving increasingly to be a robust and authoritative measure of the success and effectiveness of the top performers in the sport worldwide. But we are also conscious they are not infallible. Inevitably, some individuals slip through the cracks if they do not receive sufficient opportunities at the highest levels. This is particularly true of jockeys. Without sufficient rides in Group and Graded races (and not just on outsiders), they have little chance of making a mark. This point was underlined emphatically in Hong Kong yesterday.

We have banged the drum for Silvestre De Sousa before. Here for instance. And here.  

The Brazilian is the reigning British champion. Indeed, he has won the title in three of the last four seasons (he was second the other time). Yet a dearth of meaningful Group-race rides means he stands only 11th among Britain-based jockeys in the TRC standings.

He is 70th in the overall world standings, which means that, of the 12 riders taking part in the Longines International Jockeys Championship at Happy Valley yesterday, he was only the eighth-highest ranked. It was a formidable line-up, for what is probably the most prestigious jockeys’ challenge there is. It featured seven jockeys in the world top 25, including four in the top ten.

THE IJC LINE-UP

Ryan Moore (GB) world #1
Christophe Lemaire (Japan) #4
Hugh Bowman (Australia) #6
Javier Castellano (US) #10
Zac Purton (Hong Kong) #14
Yutaka Take (Japan) #23
Mickael Barzalona (France) #24
Silvestre De Sousa (GB) #70
Karis Teetan (Hong Kong) #95
Colin Keane (Ireland) #112
Vincent Ho (Hong Kong) #296
Matthew Poon (Hong Kong) unranked

That De Sousa ran out a convincing winner of the challenge at Happy Valley, winning two of the four races, including one on a 208/10 shot, and riding a second and a third in the other two, certainly doesn’t prove he was the best jockey in the competition. But it does underline that he’s absolutely top-class, that he is capable of competing against the likes of Moore, Castellano, Bowman, Purton and Lemaire. On the best horses. In the best races.

Ireland’s Colin Keane got his Hong Kong debut off to a flying start in the first leg, making his first ride at Happy Valley a winning one on the John Size-trained Special Stars.

Drawn widest of all in gate 12, Keane broke alertly to take up a position in mid-division, tracking the leaders before launching his challenge off the home turn. Special Stars responded to his encouragement to run down the leaders in the home straight and won a shade cosily by a length and a quarter from De Sousa on Midnight Rattler.

De Sousa, who is five weeks into a four-month stint riding in the cauldron of competition that is Hong Kong racing, in which he has already ridden eight winners, struck in the second leg, with gate 12 again proving no handicap as he broke trainer Jimmy Ting’s Glory Star from widest of all to take a lead that he was never to surrender. Javier Castellano threw down a challenge on Good For You, but Glory Star had too much in reserve and held on for a convincing win. Keane picked up more points for third on Tony Millard’s C P Power, so at the end of leg two De Sousa led on 18 points, with Keane second on 16, and Castellano third on six.

Vincent Ho got his name on the scoresheet in the third leg, when getting up close home on the Manfred Man-trained Little Island, running down long-time leader Curling Luxury and Castellano. De Sousa was third aboard favourite All You Know, but the four points earned increased his lead over Keane to six with one leg to go.

So it was all to play for between the four leaders going into the last leg, with de Sousa on 22 points, Keane on 16 and Ho tied with Castellano on 12, thanks to two seconds.

In the event de Sousa took the championship in emphatic style on the John Moore-trained outsider Experto Crede, dashing through on the rail to hold the challenge of Ryan Moore on the John Size-trained Bank On Red.

With none of his nearest rivals scoring points in the last leg, de Sousa finished well clear on 34 points with two wins and a second and third in the four legs. Keane was runner-up on 16, while Ho shaded Castellano for third.

A delighted de Sousa said: “I have to pinch myself that it all went so smoothly tonight. You can’t buy moments like this. The atmosphere was amazing, and you could hear the crowd cheering behind you. Obviously you need luck on a night like this, but to beat jockeys of the quality in this field is something really special.”

A crowd of 30,174 were on hand for the International Jockeys Championship, and the betting turnover was HK$1.348 billion.

Racing moves to Sha Tin on Sunday with the biggest day in the jurisdiction’s calendar. The Longines Hong Kong International Races feature four world-class G1 contests - including the $3.6 million Hong Kong Cup.

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