There may be little in the way of academic qualifications on the CV of jockey Jason Watson – but there could soon be a significant title on it.
In a campaign which has seen him go from virtual unknown to one of the rising stars of the weighing room, the 18-year-old from Brighton stands on the brink of crowning his remarkable rise by taking the Stobart Apprentice Jockeys Championship.
While those in behind are playing catch up to the 3lb pound claimer, who landed the Stewards’ Cup aboard the Hugo Palmer-trained Gifted Master at Glorious Goodwood, he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground and not taking anything for granted.
He continues in red-hot form, in fact, enjoying a winner for Godolphin at Sandown on Saturday.
“It’s going well and I’m riding a few winners, so I’m hanging on in there. There are still two months to go and there is plenty of time for things to change, but I’m still gunning for the title,” Watson said.
“It could open up loads of opportunities if I do win it and it looks good on the CV. David Egan was champion apprentice last year and he rode a Group Two winner at Glorious Goodwood this year, so who knows what it can lead to?
“I don’t really look at the board, I just ride every day as it comes. At the end of the day, it is not going to make me think any different, as I’ve got to go out there and do my job.”
Watson was widely praised for his ride on Gifted Master, a day he will “never forget”.
He said: “To win the Stewards’ Cup was amazing and a day I will never forget. A massive ‘thank you’ goes to Mr Palmer and my agent, Tony Hind, as it was such a big opportunity to ride a horse that is a dual Group Three and Listed winner.
“He is a such a tough horse and he proved it.”
While to many his name has only been thrust upon them since the turn of the year, for those closest to the teenager it was clear from an early age that working with horses in some aspect was always going to form a major part of his life, even though his family had no connection to the sport.
He explained: “I was never very academic, to be honest. I used to go off to ride horses after school when all the other lads would be off to play football. I never really blended in with anyone else, I just wanted to get out of school and be with the horses.
“At 13 I left school and started home education. My parents employed a teacher and they were supposed to come in once a week and set you work, but I saw them about twice a year and that was the end of that.
“I learnt to ride with Ray Goldstein, who is an ex-jump jockey, at a riding school near Lewes. My parents told me Mr Goldstein said I was a good rider and he said that I could be a jockey one day.
“Because he was an ex-jockey and his sons are jockeys I just fell into the racing more than eventing or anything else.
“I have put all my eggs into one basket, but this is what I’ve always wanted to do. It is risky, but I’ve taken that chance. So far it’s going really well.”
If the production line of jockeys that have graduated from the tutelage of trainer Andrew Balding, which includes Oisin Murphy and William Buick, is anything to go by, then Watson, who has also had spells with Gary Moore and Tres Abbott in America, is in for a big future.
He said: “There are a list of great jockeys at the moment that have come through the ranks at Andrew Balding’s yard and I’m in a great position.
“I’m lucky I get on well with him and it is a strong connection to have and hopefully we can continue that great partnership.
“A lot of it last year was trying to get experience and spread my name around. Andrew is very good at not letting apprentices rush through their claims and become forgotten about after a season. He just wanted to keep a lid on me and it’s really paid off.”
With Watson not shying away from the increased publicity he has received in recent months, he hopes the current interest in his career will continue as he attempts to establish himself as one of the leading names for years to come.
He said: “It is what you need with people watching you and if you look at the likes of James Doyle, William Buick, Ryan Moore and Oisin Murphy it is their direction you want to be heading in.
“You want to be known as one of the ones to keep an eye out for, so it is great to start to creep into that realm. Hopefully I can be champion apprentice and champion jockey one day.
“It is a nice feeling to know that you know you could be doing what Oisin and William are doing in a few years, and hopefully things will continue going that way.”