CAM HARDIE is living proof of the timeless adage that you can take the boy out of Yorkshire, but that you cannot take Yorkshire out of the boy.
At just 18 years old, the Barnsley-born jockey is the young star of the 2014 Flat season after becoming an integral part of Richard Hannon’s all-conquering stable.
Hardie’s Yorkshire accent is still pronounced as he celebrates a hat-trick of firsts.
He was the history-making jockey who won the first race to be staged on Good Friday when viewpoint prevailed at Lingfield in April. It was also his first win for Hannon.
He was in the winner’s enclosure for the first time at the prestigious Glorious Goodwood meeting when Barnet Fair prevailed for Thirsk’s Dandy Nicholls.
And he was among the winners for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation on Wednesday when Barchan and Winter Queen prevailed at Lingfield and Kempton respectively.
Though the talented teenager accepts that he cannot catch Oisin Murphy – another baby-faced rider with the presence of a veteran after being signed up by Qatar Racing – in the race to become the 2014 champion apprentice, Hardie will almost certainly be the name to beat next year.
It helps that his father Willy was a jump jockey before becoming head lad to Great Habton-trainer Tim Easterby where Hardie grew up.
It has assisted in keeping the rider grounded as he comes to terms with his rapid rise through the racing ranks after recording his first winner at Wolverhampton last October aboard French Press when the young Tyke got the better of former champion jockey Seb Sanders in a tight finish.
He has not looked back thanks in part to Easterby, the 2002 St Leger-winning trainer with Bollin Eric, who recognised that Hardie needed to join a bigger yard to fulfil his talent.
“I was born in Barnsley. I am Yorkshire through and through,” Hardie reassured The Yorkshire Post while driving to Lingfield yesterday.
“I was around two when my dad Willy stopped riding and got a job at Easterby’s. I grew up on the yard. It was about then that I got my first pony and I listened to Tim’s dad Peter recount stories about his Champion Hurdle wins with Sea Pigeon and Night Nurse. They get better with each story!
“I did a lot of showjumping and hunting, and I loved it. Mr Easterby senior was very helpful.
“He was in the yard every day just keeping an eye out. He says you’re not a proper jockey until you’ve ridden 95 winners – I’ve still got some way to go.
“Tim’s a lovely man. So down-to-earth for a trainer. He knows how to train horses.”
The respect between Hardie, now on the 34-winner mark for the year, and the younger Easterby is mutual.
“I just said that he needed to be going somewhere better. He was always going to be a very good rider,” said the trainer.
Easterby was not surprised when Hardie recorded his first victory just over 10 months ago, though all the jockey appears to remember is “the big grin” etched across his face as he returned to the winner’s enclosure.
It did not matter that there were hardly any spectators present at this Wolverhampton all-weather meeting; the record books do not record attendance numbers.
Good Friday, says Hardie, was more significant because of a sell-out crowd of 8,700 spectators and the national media in attendance.
“It got me a lot of publicity,” said the former pupil of Ryedale School. “It was the start of everything kicking off this year. I’d ridden Barnet Fair a couple of times and he gave me a great spin. And then to win for Godolphin. You just feel very privileged. It’s the dream of every young apprentice to ride the royal blue colours of Godolphin.”
It also helps that Hardie can learn from the very best each morning on the Hannon gallops near Marlborough, Wiltshire.
The trainer’s brother-in-law Richard Hughes, the reigning Flat champion, is stable jockey while Ryan Moore, regarded by many as the best jockey in the world, also rides for the yard.
There are also a clutch of unheralded riders, like South-African-born Sean Levey and Kieran O’Neill, battling for rides. The competition is healthy, notes the young pretender who had his first rides at York on Ebor day. He still regards Knavesmire as his “local” track.
With Hardie’s weight allowance likely to reduce to three pounds shortly, he expects a quiet autumn so his ‘claim’ can be protected for 2014. Like Oisin Murphy who prospered after a winter riding work in Australia, the Yorkshireman has asked his agent Tony Hind to seek out a similar opportunity overseas.
Yet Hardie is taking nothing for granted.
“It will be very competitive for apprentices next year, even with Mr Murphy out of the way. I just want to be as successful as I can,” he says. Peter Easterby, for one, would approve.
TOMORROW: Sir Alex Ferguson speaks about his Yorkshire racing “inspiration” in an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post.