By Jon Lees
The huge gamble Adam Beschizza took when he left Britain to seek opportunity in the United States will pay off handsomely at Churchill Downs on Saturday when the jockey who never rode in a Group One at home will have his first ride at a Breeders’ Cup.
Beschizza, 26, will partner Mom’s On Strike, who in April provided him with a first win at Graded level in the Grade Three Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland, in the $2million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
He could have a second ride at the meeting if there is a late defection from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, for which his mount Tracksmith is first reserve.
It will mark a remarkable 12 months for Beschizza who, on the corresponding weekend last year, packed his bags in Newmarket and got on a plane to New Orleans to explore an alliance with Mom’s On Strike’s trainer Joe Sharp, husband of former top rider Rosie Napravnik.
The rider hoped to make a name for himself – and more often than not that name is ‘Biscuit’ because “nobody can say my surname. When you pronounce it ‘Biscuit-za’ it just jumps out at you”.
Biscuit or Beschizza, he went a long way to achieving his goal during a spectacular spell at Fair Grounds, where he rode 65 winners to finish second in the jockey standings of the November to March meet, just one win behind Shawn Bridgmohan.
The highlight of Beschizza’s career in Britain came in 2015 when he completed the autumn double by riding Third Time Lucky and Grumeti to win the Cambridgeshire and Cesarewitch respectively; his best year by winners came in 2017 with 38.
Now he is closing in on a maiden century in the US, having ridden 95 winners for prize-money in excess of $4m.
“I definitely wouldn’t have thought I would be riding in my first Breeders’ Cup a year after coming here,” said Beschizza.
“I have ridden some nice horses to get to this stage. It’s nice to stay on them, let alone win on them, because anybody who is anybody is here for this meeting. Joe has kept faith in me and there is no one out there that pushes me as much as him.”
Beschizza, who grew up in Newmarket where his aunt Julia Feilden trains, continued: “It’s pretty much nearly my anniversary for being here a year. I got here on November 4 last year.
“I went down to Heathrow, got on a plane expecting the worst, hoping for the best. It was probably off the back of not a bad season back home, but I left and thought ‘here goes nothing’. You have to throw yourself out there sometimes.
“I flew straight into New Orleans. Nothing was set in stone in terms of having somewhere to live. It was worrying times, a time of my life when I was leaving my comfort zone and taking a plunge into deep water. I didn’t know whether I would sink or swim.
“But I think we are all equals in this game and this shows that if you are given the opportunity and someone believes enough in you to give you that chance so you get on the right horses I can deliver.”
The five-year-old Mom’s On Strike finished a head second on her latest start in a Listed race in September and contests her first Grade One race since finishing well beaten in the Mother Goose Stakes on dirt in 2016. She is a 66-1 chance in the betting.
“This will be here toughest task to date by far,” said Beschizza. “She has blinkers back on for this run. In her last couple of runs she has got a bit lonely in front. She is older and wiser now and we need her in full focus.
“We worked her in the blinkers and she was definitely a lot sharper. Churchill can be a bit tight and there will be a big field so we can’t be out of contention at a crucial stage. Although there is a long stretch you wouldn’t want to give her too much to do. She is a deep closer so does like a target to aim at.
“She is up against some top-class fillies and mares, some of which will not be coming back to her, but I think she is worthy of her chance. She is one of the best staying fillies in America at the moment.
”I’ve ridden on Derby day here and back home, but to be in a Breeders’ Cup race is definitely going to be a highlight.”