Apprentices worth their Weight in Gold

Apprentices worth Weight in Gold
Johnny Murtagh. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Over the years, finding an above average apprentice has always been a good angle to follow flat racing.

by John Doyle, our man in horse racing

Finding that newcomer usually means that these Jockeys are of above average ability and therefore their ability to claim weight from their mounts becomes an invaluable commodity, especially in the big value handicaps.

Here I want to highlight two young Apprentices who fit the profile of an above average operator and who should be followed closely through the 2016 Flat season, Ed Greatrex and Adam McNamara. Both these young Jockeys have impressed recently and it is clear both are promising talents at this stage of their respective careers.

Ed Greatrex burst onto the scene in 2015 and has looked very polished so far. Based at the renowned academy of Andrew Balding, it has not gone unnoticed how good a jockey he is.

Balding insisted on his star apprentice avoiding the all weather circuit during the winter in order to protect his 5lb claim for the bigger handicap prizes on offer in the current flat season.

Greatrex has a great racing brain and seems to get horses running for him while his efforts on front runners suggests a really good understanding of pace. Looking at a few of his winning rides, the standout win of his career so far came on Champions day at Ascot in October 2015.

Booked by Godolphin trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor, to ride Musaddas in the hugely valuable Balmoral handicap. Heavily supported from 12/1 to 7/1, Greatrex had him out of the stalls quickly to make all down the far side and never looked like getting beat.


His judgement of pace and delivering the result was a real standout moment in his career and supports the view that he has the temperament to be a huge success in the saddle. At Goodwood, Greatrex rode the much improved Hurdler, Rayvin Black in a lowly handicap.

Again, he made all from the front, setting a strong but controlled pace, keeping plenty in reserve to pull away at the end. Once again this demonstrates his understanding of pace and that gives him a big edge.


This race was over a longer distance too, showing his adaptability too. The final example is an inmate from the Balding stable, a horse called Ian Fleming. Riding him for the first time at Wolverhampton in March, he got the horse travelling well but delayed his challenge until right on the line, getting up to win by a nose in a maiden event.

In his next race, up in class at Chester, Greatrex gave Ian Fleming an almost identical ride to get up on the line. This showed his appreciation of riding a horse from behind and the art of getting timing correct.

Adam McNamara has come to notice this season following his move from the Johnny Murtagh’s stable in Ireland to the Yorkshire stable of Richard Fahey, who over the years has been known to maximise the use of his Claiming Jockeys allowance in the big handicaps.

Spring offensive

McNamara has looked polished in his application so far and his 7lb claim will be like gold dust this summer. Looking at a couple of his standout rides so far, his ride on spring offensive at Pontefract highlighted his ability to stay cool under pressure.

Travelling well in midfield, he pulled out to attack the leaders, when suddenly Spring Offensive hung violently left across the course. Showing no sign of panic, McNamara kept his balance and more importantly kept his mount going forward to still win the race. Maintaining composure when things are not going to plan is a sign of talent for the job that is hard to find.

Another good example of the McNamara talent came at the May meeting at Chester, when he took the mount Khelman in the 7- furlong handicap. Slowly away from the inside stall, he was soon travelling in mid-division but coming into the straight, he was behind a wall of horses. Showing coolness beyond his years, he waited for the gap to appear and then powered through to win the race.

Again a good example of a Jockey who has above average talent and will pay to follow through the season.

In summary, paying particular attention to the mounts of these highly promising apprentices, especially in the high value handicaps at the big meetings, will be a good strategy that should be profitable over the season.

The top trainers are always keen to have an edge and will be looking to use their services.

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