Jason Watson has set his sights on reaching 100 winners for the year after riding out his claim at Kempton on Monday evening.
The 18-year-old is closing in on the century after riding his 95th career winner aboard Archimento, meaning he is no longer able to claim an allowance and will now ride on level terms with the likes of Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore.
Only two of Watson’s winners came last year. The rest have been racked up in a whirlwind first full campaign in 2018 that has seen him rise from rookie to champion apprentice.
“It’s absolutely amazing. Back in January if you’d told me all this was going to happen – winning a Stewards’ Cup and becoming champion apprentice – I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Watson.
“I just want to get as much as I can on my CV.
“I want to reach 100 winners for the year. I’ve not got many to go and hopefully I’ll get some before Champions Day.”
That day at Ascot on October 20 is when Watson will officially be crowned champion apprentice.
Modestly, he puts his success down to having a winning team behind him – trainer Andrew Balding, agent Tony Hind and jockey coach John Reid – plus a bit of luck and hard work.
“It’s brilliant. It’s all happened so quickly, but every day you have to treat the same. You go out and do your job, ride and hopefully pick up winners,” he said.
“Luck, a bit of hard work and having a great agent and a great boss has all paid off. I’ve been very lucky to get it done quickly.
“I’m with two people that produce champions and my jockey coach John Reid has had three apprentice champions under his wing. I’m very lucky to be with the right people.”
A glance at Watson’s statistics show just how much work and dedication has gone in to his success. He has ridden for more 120 trainers and had winners for 32 of them.
“My agent has been putting in a lot of work and a lot of the people I’ve ridden for, I’ve kept riding for them,” he said.
Watson’s breakthrough victory came on Gifted Master in the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood.
To win such a prestigious handicap on a Saturday that was shown live on terrestrial television brought him to the attention of racegoers, armchair viewers and the racing world as a whole.
“It was very important to get a winner like that under my belt at such an early stage of my career,” he said.
“It was such a pleasure to be riding for Mr (Hugo) Palmer and those are the kind of rides you need and the support you need if you are going to make it as a professional. I was very fortunate to get on such a talented horse.”
Jockeys are always battling against the scales, but Watson is happy with his weight these days.
“My weight is fine. It’s never been easy. Even though I’m not very tall I’ve got quite a broad build about me,” he said.
“When I was claiming 7lb I found it a little bit hard, but my weight has stayed the same as when I first started. Every day I’m about 8st 6lb, 8st 7lb and sometimes 8st 5lb on a good day.”
He insists he will not change anything just because he has to compete against experienced professional jockeys on equal terms in the future.
“I’ve been riding against professionals. I’m just not claiming. That’s all it is,” he said.
“It’s just that I’ve not got that 3lb to help me out any more, but I don’t see myself riding any differently really, only to try and improve.
“You’ve just got to treat it the same. They are trying to do their job and I’m doing mine. I feel ready to step it up.
“I feel much more comfortable when I’m riding. I’ve had a lot of rides so I’ve managed to get plenty of experience and I want to keep improving.”
With such ambition and his top-class support team, there is no telling how far Watson will go.