11th - 14th September 2019

Ben Curtis

​Upwardly-mobile jockey Ben Curtis - a former champion apprentice in Ireland - is looking forward to a profitable week at Doncaster as he sets his sights on riding a second consecutive century of winners this year.

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Interview by Simon Mapletoft.

Which horse are you most looking forward to riding, Ben?

Karl Burke’s LORD OF THE LODGE is the one that is really getting me excited. I finished second on him in the Gimcrack at York and although he holds an entry in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes he will almost certainly go for the Listed Flying Scotsman Stakes over 7f.

What makes him so exciting?

Well, the way he ran at York in Group 2 company proves what a fine prospect he is, and there’s so much more to come from him. That was a big step up in class for him but he proved equal to it. It was the first time he’d had the rub of the green.

Are you I confident he will be as effective over the longer trip?

Without a doubt. I still think he has the ability to win a top race at 6f because he is very quick out of the gates and has such a high crushing speed, but he just kept galloping in the Gimcrack when the winner Threat quickened by us and he fought to the line. I went half way round York to pull him up that day and was the last one back in the parade ring, which is a good sign.

A drop in grade is clearly tempting, but could he prove competitive in the Champagne Stakes?

I don’t see why not. He’s come out of the York race in fine fettle and that was also a Group 2. If anything he could improve again for the extra furlong but the Champagne looks like being a hot renewal. I can see him running a big race in the Flying Scotsman and possibly putting himself in the picture for the Guineas. He could have the right profile.

You will also be hoping to get back on Karl’s Rayong in the valuable sales race?

Definitely! I won on RAYONG on debut at Carlisle in May but haven’t ridden him since as he belongs to King Power Racing and their jockey Silvestre De Sousa has been on board, but it might be touch and go whether he recovers from that nasty injury in time. I hope he does - he’s more machine than man so there’s every chance - but I’ll be a happy substitute if not.

What are the colt’s main attributes?

Well, he’s got a bit more experience than some, which I tend to think you need in these big sales races. He’s a hardy little Mayson so any rain would be in his favour, too. He put up a big performance in the sales race at York. He had no chance with the winner Mum’s Tipple but Richard Hannon has made no secret of how highly he rates him. Take the winner away and he was the best of the rest. A reproduction of that form might be good enough.

Roger Fell has also been a big supporter of yours this year and will have a strong team for the handicaps.

He’s been flying all year and will have some solid chances, though plans are still fluid. It was great to win a valuable 1m4f handicap at York on his filly TAMREER who has been given an entry in Group company on the All-Weather but could still turn up at Doncaster. Roger’s also got some tough sprinters like DAPPER MAN and HAROME who could go well in the handicaps.

You must be delighted that Burke and Fell have become such loyal supporters?

I owe a lot of my success to them both. I started riding out for Karl when I first came over from Ireland five years ago and he’s given me more and more opportunities. It’s great to go in there a couple of times a week and ride so many top quality horses including Kelly’s Dino who I won the Old Newton Cup on this summer. Roger’s also been a big supporter and I ride out for him too. They both value my input in terms of placing their horses and I enjoy that side of it.

You also have a good record for several other trainers.

Hugo Palmer and William Haggas have been big supporters and I sometimes go in and ride out for them when I’m in the south. I won the Listed Magnolia Stakes for Hugo on Mootasadir in March and went out to ride him at Belmont, which was a great experience.

Last season was by far your best so far with 113 winners, but can you beat it?

My target is to ride 100 winners before the end of the year but now I’ve passed 70 it looks achievable. If I beat last year’s total then all well and good but I’m very happy with the way things are going, even if I might have hit a few flat spots. I’m my own biggest critic and set my expectations very high so I’m never going to rest on my laurels.

Getting on the right horses is key and my agent Simon Dodds does a great job for me. If he puts me on the wrong one he knows I’ll be annoyed but between us we don’t make many wrong decisions. He’s a great man to have behind me.

Is it important to be a keen form student yourself?

Oh yes. I’m very competitive and watch all of my races back, as well as every replay. It’s vital to me that I keep on striving to improve on my performances and keep up with what’s happening. Racing is always on in the house but luckily my 18-month-old son Brodi loves it. He lights up when he sees my on telly and would rather sit on his rocking horse in front of the racing than watch Pepper Pig.

As a lighter jockey, do you find its easy to maintain your weight?

I have to work at it, to be honest, but am pretty stable at around 8st 8lb. I try not to dip below that because wasting can be a bit of a rollercoaster. You can shed a few pounds one day and wake up at 9st the next. I don’t eat breakfast - a can of Red Bull keeps me going through the morning - but I do enjoy dinner whenever possible. Keeping a consistent weight helps me ride better so I definitely wont be missing my evening meals next week.

Ben Curtis Fact file:

Winners: 2014 - 56 from 495 rides; 2015 - 64-513; 2016 - 74-620; 2017 - 79-685; 2018 - 113-679; 2019 - 73-571.

Top trainers: Brian Ellison 53-416; Karl Burke 46-446; Alan Swinbank 44-356; David Barron 39-271; Roger Fell 36-202; William Haggas 24-69; Hugo Palmer 20-67.

Biggest winners: Nakuru (Sylvester Kirk), Group 3 Atalanta Stakes 2015; Above The Rest (David Barron), Group 3 Chipchase Stakes 2018; Little Kim (Karl Burke), Group 3 Prix Du Bois 2018; Comedy (Karl Burke), Group 3 Prix de Cabourg 2018.

Statistics accurate to 5th September 2019.

Ben Curtis