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Festive stars: the 20-year-old jockey winning big in his first season

Over this festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the disciplines. These are people you really need to keep an eye out for in 2020...

Conditional jockey Ben Jones has enjoyed a dream start to his professional career in the saddle since changing from his amateur status over the summer.

The Welsh rider — whose father, Dai, is clerk of the course at Ffos Las Racecourse — stormed to success in the 2019 renewal of the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup), a race most jockeys can only dream of winning.

At just 20 years old, the fledgling jockey is a rising star of the weighing room, having spent time under the guidance of top Somerset trainer Philip Hobbs.

“It has been an incredible start to my first season as a professional jockey, I could never have dreamt it at the beginning of 2019,” reflects Ben.

Hitting the 10-winner mark before the festive period was a highlight for Ben, but there was no bigger buzz than passing the winning post in Newbury’s feature race aboard the Emma Lavelle-trained De Rasher Counter (pictured in the navy cap). Ben also partnered Gumball, trained by Philip Hobbs, to victory in Ascot’s Sodexo Hurdle at the start of November — the young rider already has a fast-filling trophy cabinet, despite being in the early days of his career.

“This time last year, I was riding around a wet, boggy field point-to-pointing,” he laughs. “I was riding as an amateur jockey at Philip Hobbs’ yard. He has been so supportive over my decision to turn professional. It is my third season based at his stables and he has been very good to me.”

Courtesy of Philip, Ben has been jocked up on exciting horses such as Gumball, but it was a thanks to a phone call that Ben found himself riding the Ladbrokes Trophy winner.

“I just rang Emma up one day and asked if I could come and ride out once every few weeks, and she said yes. I rode my first winner for her at the beginning of this season and things have progressed from there really,” explains Ben.

“I’m still on cloud nine after winning the big race at Newbury. People are still coming up to me and congratulating me weeks after. I don’t think it will sink in for a while,” he adds.

“We thought he was unexposed going into the race, but he is a very nice horse. He had done everything well leading up to the race; we just didn’t know how good he was.”

Ben is still based at Philip’s yard five times a week, but the trainer allows him a morning off a week to ride out for other trainers.

The young Welshman also credits jockey coach Rodi Greene for improving his race-riding technique.

“He has been a huge part of my career, and is also on hand to drive me to the races some days! I wouldn’t be where I am today without his help and training. It is important to always take any advice because you always have to look to improve in this sport.”

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Ben is now gunning for this season’s champion conditional jockey title.

“There are three of us currently fighting towards the conditional title, but I try and put that to the back of my head and just appreciate every winner I ride.”

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