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De Sousa’s always chasing after the Silvestre lining

Author: Duane Fonseca

04/01/2018
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I cannot see why I won’t be going for a third title. I want to do very well again and if I had the same support as last year I hope to ride plenty of winners. If the good horses come I will ride them, but if not I will go to Catterick and anywhere else to ride the winners.” Winning is all that matters to Silvestre de Sousa, and the statement is testimony to the fiercely competitive nature of the Brazilian, who was crowned Champion Jockey in Britain for the second time in three seasons last year when he finished with a whopping 206 winners, having wrapped up the title race with weeks of the season still left. De Sousa has been both celebrated and criticised for his work. Not so much criticised as he is celebrated. But there had been a debate doing the rounds at the time of his first championship in 2015, one stirred up by the British racing commentator Matt Chapman, who suggested De Sousa’s success would devalue the title because of his inability to get Group One rides. It did not matter in the grand scheme of things and clearly mattered very little to De Sousa who kept penning his Cinderella story. De Sousa lost the title to Jim Crowley in 2016, but the hunger drove him to come back strongly and he finished with his best ever season in 2017 when breaking the 200 winner barrier en route to his second title. “It’s brilliant winning titles and for someone like me the hunger is always there. I have done well in England and I can say that there is no substitute for hard work. That’s always been my philosophy. You have to work hard especially when you’re in my situation,” said De Sousa. Work hard is what he does and that’s what caused him to provisionally shift base to Dubai. De Sousa will ride freelance in the UAE until the Dubai World Cup on March 31 and return to Britain for the start of the flat racing season there. He has a few rides lined up and just like he does back home in England, is always on the lookout for more. “I’m riding freelance here and it’s worked out well so far. I have a few trainers that are interested in me riding for them and I am open to riding for whoever wants me to ride for them. I have a few rides for owners and trainers from England in the Dubai World Cup Carnival and working towards Dubai World Cup night, so let’s see how it goes,” said De Sousa. It’s gone fairly well so far with two wins, three seconds and two thirds emerging from his 28 rides so far. Clearly his main goal are the impending Carnival and Dubai World Cup card and the 36yo De Sousa has merely used the odd month and half that he’s been here to acclimatise with conditions. “I thought I would come here because it would be nice to get a feel of the tracks and the racing conditions building up to the Carnival and I’m feeling good about it all,” said De Sousa. Sheer hard work has put him to where he is at the moment, but De Sousa must feel really good about the way the jigsaw has come together having sat aboard a racehorse for the first time at the age of 17 in São Paulo, Brazil. Born the youngest of 10 children in São Francisco do Maranhão in the north of Brazil in a family devoid of any privileges when it came to racing, De Sousa learned to ride bareback on his family farm alongside vaqueiros who used nags to round up cattle for milking. He had perhaps not even heard of a Thoroughbred then and hence would never have perhaps imagined being crowned Champion Jockey in the competitive racing scenery of Great Britain. A top rider in São Paulo, Fausto Durso, saw potential in De Sousa’s strong 5ft frame during a chance meeting between the two at a racecourse and suggested he try riding. Durso found him a seat at São Paulo’s racing academy and it was there that he was given a basic platform on which to build. After winning the apprentice title in 2000, De Sousa waited a few years after which he travelled to Ireland to work for the trainer Dermot Weld at his stables at The Curragh. Ireland did not work well for him and De Sousa later moved to England to work for Thirskbased trainer David Nicholls, who really set him going. In his first season in 2006, De Sousa finished with 27 winners from 195 rides and the increasing number of winners over the years brought a corresponding increase in the number of rides he was offered. He scored a century of winners for the first time in 2010 and was backed by Mark Johnston’s yard later on which brought him Royal Ascot success, where he claimed a double at the 2011 royal meeting riding Namibian and Fox Hunt to victory in the Queen’s Vase and Duke of Edinburgh Stakes respectively. De Sousa has consistently ridden over a 100 winners every season since his maiden century in 2010 and has remained a top challenger for the top riders prize in Britain ever since. His tally for the 2015 season in which he was crowned Champion Jockey for the first time was 155. The level of competitiveness that can be found in the riders competition in England can be seen in the fact that despite recording 10 more winners the following year, he was unable to defend the title, which was claimed by Jim Crowley. Like the boxer Muhammad Ali would do when battered by an opponent, De Sousa only found motivation there in to fight harder. And he battled to the top with a whopping 206 winners under his belt. “It’s simple; nothing can match working hard and winning one title made me want to do it again. I have worked hard to come this far and am always looking for more to do. To get more rides and to do well at the highest level is something I challenge myself to do,” says De Sousa. His biggest backers arrived in 2013 in the form of Godolphin and with them he won that year’s Group 1 Champion Stakes on British Champions Day aboard the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Farhh. De Sousa also won the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury with Farhh. He was a big hit in Dubai too and is no stranger to winning on the biggest night of its racing calendar, having won Godolphin both the 2013 Group 1 Dubai Turf with Sajjhaa and the 2014 Group 1 Dubai World Cup with African Story. It did not work too well for him with the royal blue silks and he wasn’t retained, but he wasn’t disappointed and moved on backed by agent Shelley Dwyer managed to get the rides he needed to give him a chance at the title he won in 2015. De Sousa calls England home now and lives on the outskirts of Newmarket with wife Vicky and their two children. He shuffles a lot around the country riding for owners both big and small. De Sousa never seems to tire of the job he does. “I love what I do and that gives me a lot of the motivation. You have to ride to earn and I work hard so that I can do that well. I believe in doing things well, whatever it is and I am determined to succeed so I give it my best shot,” he says. “It is hard to explain, but I have a lot of determination. I never ride just for the sake of it, I wouldn’t do that. I ride to win and to give my 100% and I believe in myself and in what I can do and achieve.” Achieve he has done. And more victory on Dubai World Cup day will definitely prop him up well for a successful defence of his title in Britain.

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18 Jan 2018
Issue Number: Issue 632
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