Newly crowned 2018 Stobart champion Flat jockey, Silvestre De Sousa, is already looking forward to attempting to add a fourth championship to his illustrious CV in 2019. Here are a few things you might not know about this Brazilian. A full interview with Silvestre can be found in the latest issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out now (dated 18 October).
1. The 37-year-old was born in rural Brazil, on a farm where his family grew their own food. His dad bred quarter horses and he learnt to ride on the farm.
2. He has nine brothers and sisters — and none of them ride competitively. “I’ve had to make my own way, to be tough,” he says. “But for a big family we are very close, great friends. But we were competitive as children.”
3. He left school aged 13 and headed for the bright lights of São Paulo, a two-day drive away from his home. He worked in a furniture company, making sofas and curtains.
4. He won on his first ride in Britain, on New Year’s Day in 2006, beating a certain Victoria Behan — whom he married six years later.
5. His 12-year-old son Ryan is an accomplished showjumper, and has ambitions to ride in the European pony championships. Silvestre is called on to gallop Ryan’s ponies twice a week. He also mucks out regularly — Victoria runs a yard preparing horses for shipping and sales, plus producing ponies. But Silvestre doesn’t enjoy watching showjumping — “it’s chaos”.
6. Silvestre has now been champion jockey three times — 2015, 2017 and 2018, winning his first title the season after being sacked by Godolphin. And he’s not stopping now: “I’d love to win a fourth championship — and to break records,” he says.
7. Silvestre is the ideal jockey’s build. He is 5ft2 and naturally weighs in at 52kg, so he never needs to diet. “He eats and eats and eats,” says Victoria. “Ice creams, milkshakes — he goes out to lunch and has a proper meal.” He loves Brazilian feijoada, rice, chicken, meat, and apparently cooks a mean barbecue.
8. His favourite race was the Juddmonte in 2015, which he won on 50-1 shot Arabian Dream, beating odds-on favourite Golden Horn. “She was small and angry, but she wanted to win and to please,” says Silvestre. “I love a horse like that, who puts their heart on the line and works with you.”
9. He can’t name a favourite horse: “I have moments — horses come with moments,” he says. “Sometimes the little winners give you as much pleasure as the Classics.”
10. His favourite track is York: “I love the atmosphere and the passion up in the north — you can feel the crowd behind you three furlongs out. It’s like playing football in a big stadium, you’re happy to play and you want to have a winner for that crowd. There’s amazing history there.”
11. Silvestre isn’t a fan of stopwatches. “I don’t like to work to a set time. I like to go on the feel the horse gives me, going at the speed that feels right, and makes the horse happy. I think it will race the better for it.”
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12. He isn’t superstitious. “You make your own luck,” he says. “I wear a cross, but it’s just habit. I believe in myself and being in the right place, working hard and riding as many horses as I can.”
13. Silvestre clocks up 75,000 miles during eight months in the UK (he’s in Hong Kong in winter) in his quest for winners — but nowadays he has a driver.
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