Jim Crowley: “I’ll definitely give it a go and go anywhere for a ride.”
PICTURE: Getty Images
By James Burn 12:00pM 14 AUG 2016
JIM CROWLEY approached Saturday’s Group 2 Betfred Hungerford Stakes aiming to land his biggest victory of the season but, although he did not win, it was the manner he exited the track which said more about the direction of his campaign.
Home Of The Brave, the 7-4 favourite, was floored by fellow Godolphin runner Richard Pankhurst, but as Crowley sprinted out of Newbury for five rides at Lingfield he indicated, in words as well as actions, that challenging for the Stobart-sponsored jockeys’ title was top of his agenda.
The former jump jockey began Sunday second in the championship on 59, one ahead of James Doyle (suspended) in third and with Ryan Moore (taking a break) in fourth on 57.
Reigning champion Silvestre de Sousa continues to lead the way on 68 winners.
Bookmakers rate De Sousa a red-hot 1-5 favourite to retain the crown, while Crowley can be backed at no bigger than 8-1 with firms including Coral, William Hill and Betfair.
“I’ll definitely give it a go and will go anywhere for a ride,” said Crowley, who switched codes in 2006.
That decision has proved a fruitful one, yielding top-level victories on Lord Shanakill (Prix Jean Prat), Prohibit (King’s Stand Stakes) and Madame Chiang (British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes), but not yet a jockeys’ championship.
All but one of the rider’s past eight seasons have resulted in 100-plus tallies, figures that will stand him in good stead if he is to mount a serious challenge in the coming months.
‘Very good hands’
Helping that title bid will be former champion trainer Paul Cole, who has supplied Crowley with four winners from 16 rides this year.
“He’s got very good hands and can switch horses off,” said Cole. “I use him quite a lot and I’d definitely support him if he went for the title.”
Crowley is a man Harry Dunlop also likes to use and the Lambourn handler, one of 31 trainers the jockey has ridden winners for this year, added: “I’d very much like to help him. Tactically he’s very good and he’s very strong. He’s also very good with owners and his feedback is first class.
“It was Jim’s advice to swap the blinkers for a visor on Finelcity at Kempton the other day and the horse duly won. That was thanks to his advice.”
Hind at the helm
One man critical to a prospective title bid is Tony Hind, the agent who helped Richard Hughes triumph in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Crowley linked up with Hind at the end of last year and his new ally was pushing him towards a title challenge from the first days of their involvement.
Speaking in March, Hind said: “When Jim came to me he told me he wanted to finish in the top five. I said to him, ‘If you want to finish in the top five, you shouldn’t be on my books. Why don’t you want to win it’?”