Apprentice turns Master at Goodwood

Close call: Justanotherbottle (yellow colours) lead eventual winner Gifted Master and Jason Watson (red star on cap) in the Stewards Cup.
Close call: Justanotherbottle (yellow colours) lead eventual winner Gifted Master and Jason Watson (red star on cap) in the Stewards Cup.
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APPRENTICE jockey Jason Watson watched the Stewards Cup, one of Flat racing’s big handicaps of the summer, on TV last year as he harboured dreams of riding in the cavalry charge.

Now the 18-year-old’s name is on the Goodwood roll of honour after the aptly-named Gifted Master won a thrilling renewal to enhance Watson’s status as the season’s leading apprentice.

This was his 50th career success and the teenager produced an elementary ride of great maturity. Prominent, Watson’s mount was then headed by North Yorkshire raider Justanotherbottle, who looked set to win the race before Gifted Master rallied late on.

It took a photo-finish to determine the outcome. Yet, while the runner-up, trained at Malton by Declan Carroll, is set to go to the Ayr Gold Cup and renew rivalry with Richard Fahey’s Growl, who was third, this was Watson’s day.

Cheered on by his parents Tim and Jenny, he grew up in Sussex and is now attached to the Andrew Balding yard which has nurtured riders of the calibre of William Buick and Oisin Murphy.

Yet his prowess is such that he rode a winner at Newmarket for Malton-based John Quinn on Friday night and Gifted Master’s trainer, Hugo Palmer, booked the jockey for the Stewards Cup two weeks before the heritage handicap.

“This time last year, I was sat at home watching this on the television. I never thought I would ride in this race, let alone win it, so it is a great feeling,” said Watson.

“I haven’t had many rides at Goodwood and it is a very tough track to ride, but looking at his form, he stays a mile and I thought I would sit on him and make my challenge late and it paid off.

“Gifted Master is as game as anything. I was a little worried that we had got beat but I knew he stayed and he is as tough as old boots.

“I’ve been very fortunate to get good rides. So many people have helped me out in the past year and I can’t believe how well it has gone – hopefully it will continue.

“People were asking me at work about how I would celebrate and I had all these ideas in my head, but it was such a tight finish and I wasn’t sure if I had won.”

Middleham’s Mark Johnston was Glorious Goodwood leading trainer for a 11th time courtesy of Lake Volta’s win in the five-day fixture’s penultimate race.

The trainer had four triumphs at the flagship meeting, though they did not include St Leger hope Dee Ex Bee, who could only finish second to Charlie Appleby’s progressive Cross Counter in the Gordon Stakes.

Johnston blamed the fast going for the defeat of the Epsom Derby runner-up, who ran in snatches under champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa.

“Straight out of the gates he has been on and off the bridle, and never been able to get into a rhythm,” said Johnston, who is on the brink of becoming Britain’s winning-most trainer.

“Silvestre said when they got to the top off the hill and he was starting to make some use of him he just wasn’t quick enough down the hill to get into it. More cut in the ground and more stamina – simple as that. The St Leger is still on.”

The winner, who set a course record, is likely to be campaigned in Australia this winter. As a gelding, he is ineligible for the St Leger, the final Classic of 2018.

Tim Easterby’s prolific run continued when Mikmak won the Thirsk Summer Cup for the Great Habton trainer and jockey David Allan.