Jockey Connor Beasley is a man “Living the Dream”. Promoted to the number one jockey for Ahmad bin Harmash for the UAE season, the County Durham born rider is now just one short of his season target of 20 wins and we’re not quite yet half way through January.
It’s a meteoric rise that will see him partner some the more fancied horses during the World Cup Carnival and it’s the culmination of the hard work he has put in riding back home in the UK. You’d forgive the 24-year-old for letting the success go to his head but speaking to him after another successful week in the saddle he’s still as down to earth as he was when we spoke at the start of the campaign. That, perhaps, symptomatic of a rider who nearly lost it all in a horrific accident a few years ago. That of course is all well documented so it’s all about the future for Beasley now and it’s clear he’s putting in the hard yards and learning lessons as he continues to bang in the victories.
“Things are chipping away smoothly” is Beasley’s understated assessment of his season so far. “I’m getting to know the tracks inside and out now and have more experienced riding in the UAE so it’s all starting to click together nicely. I’ve had to adapt to the racing style and now I know the form of the horses I’m racing up against which all helps.”
For those who have watched the jockey’s career trajectory from the beginning will have always seen the talent but that now seems to be combined with an icy confidence that only success can bring. Now sitting second in the jockey’s championship Beasley is learning how to use that to his advantage.
“I’m going out there on a high every time I get the leg-up.” Says Beasley. “With the confidence in me I can just ride the race properly and let things happen a bit more rather than force it which is always tempting when you’re under a bit of pressure.”
That more patient approach was best displayed when he rode the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate’s Golden Jaguar to a debut success on Friday. Rearing up when the gates opened the son of Animal Kingdom was left with plenty of yards to make up on the field as they disappeared into the distance. But with ice pumping through his veins Beasley just allowed things to evolve before expertly guiding the horses through the pack and to a comfortable success.
“First time out he was a little anxious in the gates and he missed the start.” Recalls Beasley “I just had to give him a chance to find his legs and that goes back to what I said about letting the race develop rather than rushing the job. Just taking a small, smoother approach to the race and it all just falls into place.”
While the ride left an impression on the watching audience the horse left one on his rider.
“To be fair he did everything wrong.” chuckles the Jockey with the air of a man who hopes hasn’t offended anyone (he hasn’t). “He missed the break and was a little slow to find his stride and he had to catch up. But the manner in which he did it was impressive especially when he hit the front. I know he only beat the second by a length and a little bit but he did it well in comparison with how much he lost from the gates. It was over five furlongs which might be a patch short for him, obviously though he has that ability and attitude that saw him through.”
If his raw talent saw the horse through on his debut the question has to be asked will it see him back to the winners enclosure when bigger test are presented to him? There is no doubt, in his riders mind that the colt’s opening gambit was just the start.
“I dare say he’ll improve a lot from that mentally. It was a big day for him with a big crowd and a big field so I think he’ll come on lots for that. In a way he speaks for himself, he got a lot of kickback in his face and had to switch around horses a little bit so he definitely have learned a lot. There was a horse in there rated 86 so although you wouldn’t know the depth of race it looks ok form and you can only expect him to go forward from it.”
Golden Jaguar was the second Phoenix Ladies owned horse in less than 24 that the young horseman had guided into the winners enclosure. The night before, partnering the unbeaten Walking Thunder the pair had produced one of the performances of the evening to win the UAE 2000 Guineas trial by an eased down seven lengths. Drawn 13 of 13 they broke well from the gates with Beasley just taking his time to get the horse to the rail. Being tracked throughout by Godolphin’s Group One winner Royal Marine, Walking Thunder and Beasley kicked for home at the bend and left the rest standing to set up some big targets at the Carnival.
“I was getting the vibe that people were underestimating Walking Thunder a little bit.” said Beasley sounding almost irritated. “They seem to be saying the local form wasn’t that strong but at the end of the day he’d won both his starts in a very impressive manner so I was very hopeful going into the race. I didn’t know what the Godolphin horse was going to be like, he’d won a Group One on the Turf and is rated 113. On the other side I was getting a lot of weight from him but one or two people were being negative about the draw. In my mind it was a good draw. It meant I could get out, get a smooth passage and get away around the better horses without being stuck behind them. I learned a lot from him the other night because in his second run I tried to give him the chance to switch off, relax and race but in the Guineas Trial, from that wide draw, I’ve just let him go and race and he’s actually relaxed underneath me. He’s just a strong traveller, not keen and always breathing. I managed to fill his lungs right up before we turned for home and once we did it was just a case of pressing the button.”
While the victory may not have come as a surprise the margin of the success might have. You can see in the replay a furlong out Beasley look behind him and what he saw wasn’t the scene he imagined.
“In my mind I thought that Christophe Soumillon (On Royal Marine) would be just behind me.” Remembers the rider “He was tracking me throughout the race and I thought at the bend I should quicken to stretch and try to nick two lengths as I thought he’d be closing me down in the stretch. Once I kicked my lad off the turn he’s accelerated and there was no pegging him back.”
There are lots of options being discussed for Walking Thunder after such an impressive win with the UAE Derby over a couple of furlongs further the most likely target.
“I do think he’ll stay the Derby trip well for although he travels strongly over the mile, you have to as around Meydan there is no hiding place it’s always a truly run race.” Replies Beasley to the question of stamina. “You need plenty of gears to get into your stride. I took me until halfway down the back straight to pull him up that’s only a good sign. We’re very hopeful and the dream is still alive so we’d be very confident about his chances.”
We’ll see plenty more of Connor Beasley in the Orange and White silks of Phoenix Ladies over the next few weeks by which time he should have reached current targets but he won’t be tempted to set more just yet.
“I just want to reach my original goal and then enjoy the rest of the season and just continue living the dream.”
And let’s hope he can do exactly that.