Nowadays, Jim Crowley is best known as first-choice jockey to leading owner Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, having replaced Paul Hanagan in that role in November, 2016. His appointment came shortly after he had been crowned Champion Jockey for the first and, so far, only time the previous month.
However, while Crowley began his career as an amateur, riding on the Flat for the like of John White and Ron Hodges, in the late Nineties he switched his affiliation to National Hunt racing. Riding predominantly for West Yorkshire trainer Sue Smith, Crowley racked up over 250 winners in that sphere and once rode in the Grand National, albeit parting company with his mount, 150/1 outsider Art Prince, at the very first fence.
In 2006, at the behest of his father-in-law, Guy Harwood, Crowley switched back to the Flat and began riding for his sister-in-law, Amanda Perrett, based in Pulborough, West Sussex. In 2007, Crowley rode 92 winners, nearly double his previous seasonal best under National Hunt Rules, 47, recorded in 2004/5, and rode over a hundred winners in 2008 and 2009, before joining Ralph Beckett as stable jockey in 2010. He recorded his first Group One winner, Prohibit, trained by Robert Cowell, in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2011 and went freelance in 2014.
At the time of writing, Tom Marquand has recently hit the headlines by riding his first Royal Ascot winner, Who Dares Wins, in the Queen Alexandra Stakes, just 24 hours after his partner, Hollie Doyle, did likewise on Scarlet Dragon, in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, for the same connections. Earlier in 2020, with British racing suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Marquand continued to ply his trade, behind closed doors, in Australia. Indeed, on March 20, he recorded his first Group One victory on Addeybb, trained by William Haggas, in the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill and his second, on the same horse, in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick the following month.
Winning trainer William Haggas said of Marquand, ‘…I’ve said several times I believe him to be a future champion over here. I hope he stays in England to prove it.’
Born on March 30, 1998, so still only 22, Marquand has enjoyed a spectacular rise through the ranks. A graduate from the field of pony racing, he became apprenticed to Richard Hannon in 2014 and rode the one and only winner of his debut season, the two-year-old Mecado, in a four-runner selling stakes race at Kempton in December that year. However, less than a year later, in October, 2015, Marquand was crowned Champion Apprentice, edging out his nearest rival, Jack Garrity, 54-52 on the final day of the season.
In April, 1985, having ridden 1,138 winners and won the National Hunt Jockeys’ Championship seven times, John Francome announced his immediate retirement from the saddle. His decision, at the age of 32, took many observers by surprise, but Francome had made it known to his one and only boss, Fred Winter, a year earlier that the 1984/85 would be his last. Indeed, Francome later cited disillusionment with continuous dieting, constant hunger and other lifestyle factors, including driving, as the principal reasons for calling time on his riding career; by his own admission, he ‘probably got a little bit bored with it’.
Nevertheless, his decision to retire was hastened by events at Chepstow on April 9, 1985. Having parted company with his mount, The Reject, who fell at the open ditch, Francome found himself briefly ‘hung up’, with his foot jammed in a stirrup iron and the stirrup leather twisted around his shin in such a way that he could not free himself. Thankfully, he managed to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation by seizing the reins before The Reject could gallop off, but thereafter his ‘head wasn’t in the right place’ and he ‘quit there and then’, without giving the decision a second thought.
Harry Cobden was announced as stable jockey to Paul Nicholls at Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat, Somerset in May, 2018, immediately prior to the start of the 2018/19 National Hunt season. Cobden succeeded Sam Twiston-Davies, who had replaced the previous incumbent, Daryl Jacob, four years earlier, but chose to go freelance in the face of increased competition for rides from the likes of Cobden, Bryony Frost and Sean Bowen.
A graduate from pony racing, Cobden was encouraged to pursue a career as a jockey by local trainer Ron Hodges, for whom he began riding out at the age of just nine. Cobden left school, at the age of 16, in 2014 and spent seven months working for Dorset trainer Anthony Honeyball before being offered the position of conditional jockey at Nicholls’ yard. In his first season at Manor Farm, 2015/16, Cobden rode 30 winners but, in 2016/17, increased his winning seasonal tally to 63 winners; he rode out his claim in early February, 2017 and subsequently won the conditional jockeys’ championship by a wide margin. With continued support from Nicholls and fellow West Country trainer Colin Tizzard, Cobden has pressed on with his career, riding 76, 109 and 83 winners in 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20, respectively. His meteoric rise to the top of his profession has already included seven Grade One winners and he looks to have a bright future.