KINSALE native Ben Curtis was enjoying another terrific season in the UK, leading the All-Weather Jockeys’ Championship this term.
The cessation of racing couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Cork rider as he was well on his way to landing the championship title and in doing so, he was going to set a new All-Weather record.
Topflight rider Luke Morris set a record of riding 102 winners in one season on his way to lifting the much sought after jockeys’ title and this term Curtis was on 101 victories with five weeks of racing yet to complete.
The gifted rider differs from most of his weigh-room colleagues as he doesn’t come from a family steeped in racing or indeed horses. The extent of Curtis’s involvement with horses growing up in Kinsale was doing a few pony lessons at the weekend.
As a part of his work experience in secondary school he decided to ask local trainer John Murphy for a short placement. While there he was spotted by leading bloodstock agent Aiden Murphy who suggested that he would travel over to the UK and work for a while with his wife Anabel King, where he could learn the ropes and gain valuable riding experience.
The young lad jumped at the chance and ended up spending seven months at King’s progressive yard. The 15-year-old aspiring rider returned home to his native Kinsale and joined Ruaidhri Tierney’s yard.
Tierney was also a jockeys’ agent, so it was a no-brainer that Curtis quickly took out an apprentice licence.
He rode his first winner three months later in an apprentices’ handicap at Gowran Park on his father’s charge Always On Top who was trained by his lifelong friend Tierney.
Ben has ridden plenty of winners during his career for leading stables including John Oxx’s all-conquering yard. However, the personable jockey regards his first winner inside the rails for his father and friend as his finest hour.
Shortly afterwards the talented rider moved to the Curragh where he enjoyed a host of winners.
One of his career highlights at home was when he shared the 2010 apprentices’ championship with two-time title-holders Joseph O’Brien and Gary Carroll on 39 wins apiece.
Believe it or not the talented rider did not sit on a horse until he was 14.
After a while plying his trade here at home, he made the ambitious move across channel where he caught the eye of leading owners and trainers as well as the racing public from the moment he arrived.
“In Ireland, there are normally three or four meetings a week. To be very honest when you are getting two rides a day on average it’s hard to keep motivated.
“An opportunity presented itself that I could not turn down.
“Leading English agent Simon Dodds rang me and asked if I would be interested in travelling over to the UK when I was free to ride for Mr Swinbank,” explained the stylish rider.
From the moment he arrived at the successful yard he fitted in straight away, and soon the winners came along.
Curtis has built up a fruitful relationship with other leading northern trainers, Brian Ellison and Karl Burke, between them they have provided Curtis with a plethora of victories.
The Kinsale man has also built a huge reputation as a hard worker, who is honest and dedicated to his craft, if he gets offered a ride no matter where it is in the UK he accepts it without question, this can result in hours of driving the length and breadth of Brittan.
It’s unfortunate that the All-Weather Season has come to an abrupt halt in the UK.
However, Ben Curtis must be very optimistic about the new flat turf season, which hopefully will get the green light to resume in a few weeks.
He is a marvellous tactician who is also very strong in a finish.
He is riding at the top of his game and all going well the proud Cork man should chase Oisin Murphy all the way to the line in the race for this season’s jockeys’ championship title on turf.