HAWICK jockey Jason Hart has been crowned this season’s champion apprentice jockey, writes Hilary Mactaggart.
The 19-year-old – one of the youngest winners – clinched the prestigious British title at the final Flat fixture at Doncaster on Saturday, following a tremendous season which saw him ride 51 winners.
“I’ve had a great year,” he conceded.
Jason follows in the footsteps of Flat icons Lester Piggott, Pat Eddery, Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore, who all won the title, along with Hawick’s Greg Fairley.
The Apprentice Jockeys Championship is decided on ridden winners of Flat and all-weather races throughout the campaign from Friday March 22 to the final race at Doncaster on November 9.
This term, Jason has enjoyed 365 rides, with a 14 per cent strike rate.
His association with horses began in his hometown, where he gained valuable experience competing in pony racing – also a starting point for former champion apprentice Fairley and top Flat jockey Keith Dalgleish, now a successful trainer at Carluke.
There are also family connections in racing, through his grandfather, Derek Campbell, a former jump jockey.
Jason was just 15 when he left his hometown to join Mark Johnston’s Middleham stable after emailing the yard in the hope of riding-out there.
“It was a great place to learn,” he said.
“My first ever ride was on Elusive Fame at Southwell in February 2011 and I was second, beaten by a quarter length.”
Jason then joined Sledmere trainer Declan Carroll, who provided him with his first winner – Spice Bar at Ripon in August 2011.
Hart returned to Scottish soil a few days later to score at Musselburgh on Catallout.
“When you are riding, and then winning, that is when people notice you,” he explains.
That philosophy has proved sound, with several other trainers seeking his services, including Tim Walford and Eric Alston, for whom he has ridden numerous winners.
“I think it’s important for any apprentice to build up contacts,” he says, “and I would like to thank everyone who has supported me.”
Jason’s first major title comes on the heels of him previously being crowned the best young jockey at Haydock Park racecourse.
He topped the BETDAQ-sponsored seven-race Apprentice Training Series by just one point from his nearest rival.