Ben Curtis will journey “increasingly more” for Mark Johnston’s record-breaking Middleham steady this yr – and his odds for the 2021 jockeys’ title are in freefall.
Regardless of a season ravaged by the COVID-19 disaster, the 31-year-old Irishman had a 2020 to recollect, with a calendar-year whole of 170 winners – greater than any jockey in Britain.
And Curtis’s rise – together with a hit board the Johnston-trained Nayef Highway within the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes at Newmarket final June – has caught the attention of the North Yorkshire-based Scot, who in August 2018 overtook the now-retired Richard Hannon snr because the winningmost coach within the historical past of British racing.
“We don’t have any formal preparations with any jockeys – the final formal retainer I had with any jockey was Kevin Darley, and that resulted in about 2006,” stated Johnston, whose Kingsley Park yard makes use of the weighing room’s prime skills, together with steady stalwarts Joe Fanning and Franny Norton.
“Each Franny and Joe are 50 and neither has given a sign of slowing down, or retiring.
“However they’ll’t go on without end and, once they do retire, there wish to be different jockeys coming alongside behind that journey usually for us.
“Ben Curtis is true in there – on the prime of the listing – we get on very properly with him and he’s finished very properly for us.
“So, if he continues to be obtainable and continues to journey winners for us, you will notice him getting used increasingly more.”
Curtis’s stellar 2020, which additionally included a primary Royal Ascot triumph – aboard the Karl Burke-saddled Dandalla within the Group 3 Albany Stakes – ended prematurely when he was knocked unconscious in a horror fall at Wolverhampton on December 8.
However, since his return to the saddled 23 days later, Curtis has picked up the place he left off, with 5 winners for the reason that begin of the yr.
“It was completely a really profitable season for him,” added Johnston. “We used Ben fairly a bit final yr and he would have ridden extra for us if he had been extra obtainable.”
The tie-up with Johnston’s prolific operation has seen Curtis’s odds to dethrone reigning champion jockey Oisín Murphy plummet.
William Hill, who on Tuesday laid 14-1 in opposition to Curis lifting the rider’s crown, have now slashed him to 4-1. Ladbrokes go even shorter, at 7-2.
“The truth that Ben Curtis rode extra winners than some other jockey in Britain means he is not precisely a darkish horse for the title,” stated Ladbrokes’ Jon Lees.
“He has spoken of his ambition to be champion jockey, and, following the information that he might be driving extra for Mark Johnston in 2021, he’s prone to be within the combine.”