Silvestre de Sousa, now a Godolphin jockey, is a name to reckon with - By Tom Krish
Posted on - 12 Oct 2012
A jockey’s life may seem glamorous. There is high exposure. There is another side to a jockey's existence.There is pressure to win. A jockey is only as good as his last winner. It is a performance-oriented avocation. Picking the horses to ride and getting to understand the idiosyncrasies of every mount are difficult exercises. A good agent can take away part of the burden of selecting the correct ones to partner. An astute trainer may provide the framework to understand and ride a horse in the best way possible.
Silvestre de Sousa, the 31 year-old Brazilian and now a potent force in the English jockey colony, is the prime example of the belief that hard work is rewarded and dedication is a critical trait. More than once, Silvestre has been a frontline contender for the English riding title. Riding 100 winners or more in England is no mean accomplishment. Silvestre de Sousa has done it year after year.
As 2012 dawned, Silvestre’s career took a dramatic turn. In 2011, he rode a boatload of winners for trainer Mark Johnston who is based in York. Johnston was in charge of Hamdan Al Maktoum’s horses. This was a productive association and someone high up in the racing hierarchy took notice. It was none other than Sheikh Mohammed. The royal blue colors of Godolphin have been flying high on the international racing stage for over two decades. An offer to ride for Sheikh Mohammed was accepted by Silvestre de Sousa. As the 2012 Dubai campaign unfolded, Silvestre was often seen in the winner’s circle wearing the royal blue silks.
Frankie Dettori and Mickal Barzalona are the other jockeys who are part of the Godolphin establishment. The affiliation with Godolphin made necessary the move from Thirsk to Newmarket. Vicky Behan, Silvestre and Ryan, their five year-old son, live in Newmarket. It is a setting in which Silvestre has quick access to Godolphin’s training facilities, can travel to several racecourses without undue strain and be in the centre of racing activity in England.
The Silvestre family is held together by the indefatigable Vicky Behan. A rider in her right, Vicky runs the household and manages Silvestre’s business part of the career. She tends to Ryan and takes care of his needs. She finds the time to perform domestic chores. The house is clean beyond words and all the credit goes to Vicky.
Every morning, Silvestre goes to the training facility. He exercises horses, may be one, two, three or four a day. In particular, he likes to exercise the ones that he will be riding in the races. Gareth Owen, Silvestre’s agent, does not have an easy job. Finding mounts for a talented jockey in an ultra-tough market like England requires more than ordinary skill. Gareth excels at what he’s doing and Silvestre’s record provides supporting evidence.
On Wednesday, October 10, I went with Silvestre to Nottingham. We left the house at noon. Vincent Smith, a laconic gentleman, is Silvestre’s driver. Words are spoken only when necessary. As Vincent keeps his steady hand at the wheel of the Mercedes S 350, Silvestre tries to get a nap on the front passenger seat. He takes an occasional peek at the Racing Post to check the (past performance) lines of his mounts. There is a snack or two and a fruit drink. We reached Nottingham at 1 50 PM.
There were three mounts for Silvestre at Nottingham. The first two were outsiders and did not get involved. Future Security, the third mount, was the post time favorite but simply was inadequate. It was 4 PM.
We walked out of the gate ten past four and the automobile was waiting. Amy Ryan, the leading apprentice in England this year, rode with us. We were off to Kempton. It was peak hour traffic. I exchanged pleasantries with Amy. Hardly any words were uttered. There was one question Silvestre asked. “Is the traffic in Chicago as bad as it is here?”
It was 6 45 PM when got to Kempton. As he rushed to the jockeys’ room, Silvestre told me where to wait for him after his ( the 8 PM race) last mount. Kempton is right-handed. It is an all weather track. It was cold. In addition to the tote, there about eight bookmakers operating in the open. The crowd was not big by any means. A large number of courses are small and the major part of the betting is done in wagering shops that are omnipresent.
Silvestre had two mounts at Kempton. The first went nowhere. The second was Tamarkuz, a Godolphin-owned and Saeed Bin Suroor-trained freshman colt. Tamarkuz had won in his third career start at Wolverhampton (another all weather) over seven furlongs in a class 5 event. Opening at 2 to 1, in a matter of moments, Tamarkuz was the rage at 11/8 though he was in a class 2 contest and drawn 12 out of 13 runners. It was a fast-run race and Tamarkuz, inconvenienced by post-12, was held up andwas forced to travel wide. With less than two furlongs to run, Tamarkuz was let loose and the race was over in a matter of moments. It was a six-length win in 1 23.9 seconds over seven furlongs. It was a Kempton track record.
Tamarkuz is by Speightstown, a Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner in 2004. Tamarkuz’s dam is Without You Babe is by Lemon Drop Kid, a Belmont Stakes winner. Tamarkuz is going to be a nice three year-old.
We were on our way home ten past eight. It was a crisp drive and we pulled into Silvestre’s Newmarket house at 10 PM.
Dinner was waiting for us. Some conversation and it was time to retire. Thursday was going to be another day. Ayr in Scotland has a day card. Silvestre is not riding. Silvestre and Vincent left the house at 2 50 PM. Silvestre has four rides in the twilight Kempton card that gets under way at 5 20 PM.
This is an experience that I can only dream about. I am living it now. I am enjoying every minute of it.