CORK jockey Ben Curtis, trainer Mick Appleby, and owner Godolphin have finally been announced as the champions of their respective categories, for season seven of the All-Weather Championships in the UK.
The AWC Champion Apprentice Jockey, Horse of The Year, and Winning Most Horse award winners have also been revealed.
Each of the six accolades carries a cash prize of up to £10,000 and the winners have all kindly decided to donate all, or a proportion of, this money to an NHS charity to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, and to a total of £25,000.
Good Friday is traditionally the climax of the All-Weather Championships, with the £1,000,000 Finals Day meeting at Lingfield Park. Whilst the suspension of racing meant that the fixture did not go ahead, it was, however, decided that the season had officially ended, and the awards would be distributed, much to the delight of Curtis and the other category winners.
Talented rider Curtis is the runaway winner of the AWC Champion Jockey award. The former Irish champion apprentice recorded 101 victories, one short of the record set by Luke Morris in 2015.
Morris, who finished the curtailed season with 67 wins, and Hollie Doyle, who rode 58, were the only other riders to reach the half-century tally.
“I have had a brilliant campaign on the all-weather over the winter,” Curtis said.
“I rode winners for a lot of different contacts, particularly Mick Appleby and Tony Carroll, who provided me with a lot of winners. Mick puts a lot of focus on the all-weather and it was great to see him get his just rewards by being champion trainer.
“I had great support around me: I have a brilliant agent in Simon Dodds, my dad came over and drove me for a good while, and my wife kept my head in the right place and looked after our young lad, so I did not have to worry about any of that,” Curtis said.
“My wife was very much at the forefront of keeping me motivated. If I had a bad day, she was quick to pick me up. It was a big team effort from a lot of people.”
The Kinsale native was full of praise for his fellow riders and is delighted with the standard of racing this term on the all-weather in Britain.
“Luke Morris and Hollie Doyle kept me on my toes the whole way through it. Both were riding winners relentlessly and it meant I had to up my game. In any sport, you need competition, and I think the competition was rife this year,” Curtis said.
“The quality of racing and horse on the all-weather has improved substantially and there a lot of people behind the scenes who do a great job. The people working behind the camera, such as Simon Mapletoft, Jason Weaver, and so on, are doing a great job of pushing all-weather racing,” Curtis said
The hard-working rider, who is in constant demand with a host of leading flat trainers, is understandably disappointed that he didn’t set a new record on the artificial surface.
“My one regret is falling just short of Luke Morris’s record. I would have loved to set a new British record for the all-weather and, had we been able to finish the season, hopefully, I would have done that,” Curtis said
“I am giving a donation of £2,000. The NHS do so much for us on a daily basis. I have had a few falls and they have always looked after me impeccably,” he said.
“I think, now more than ever, people are appreciating what they do.”
George Rooke is the AWC Champion Apprentice Jockey, after steering 24 winners during the campaign, headlined by an-across-the-card four-timer at Southwell on Kempton Park on February 26, ten clear of runner-up, Grace McEntee.
AWC Horse of The Year is decided on prize money and this year’s award goes to the John Gosden-handled Dubai Warrior.
The gifted four-year-old has banked £89,605, after winning all three of his starts.
The AWC Winning Most Horse award goes to Agent Of Fortune.
Trained by Gary Moore and owned by the Foreign Legion syndicate, the five-year-old mare won seven times on the all-weather this term, improving an incredible 32lb in the handicap.