David Probert bids to continue his sensational run of form with victory aboard the unbeaten Sandrine in the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes at York on Thursday.
It has been quite a week for the Welsh-born rider, having claimed his 100th winner of 2021 aboard Typewriter at Nottingham on Tuesday before riding a remarkable five-timer back on home soil at Ffos Las the following evening.
Probert returned to the Welsh circuit to ride a treble on Thursday before a double at Newbury on Friday made it 10 winners in three days.
His tally of 110 for the year is just two short of the personal best he achieved in 2019, while he sits fourth in the Flat Jockeys’ Championship table with 65 winners since the season began at the start of May.
“It’s been a great week,” said Probert.
“Ffos Las is a lovely course and it was great to do it back home at a Welsh track like that.
“Everything kind of fell right. I knew I had some nice rides going to the meeting and everything fell into place.”
By his own admission, Probert was not an overnight success, having to work hard for opportunities after progressing from riding ponies in Wales to joining Andrew Balding’s yard as a teenager.
He said: “My father had horses and had two ponies for myself and my sister Laura, who works for Charlie Appleby in Newmarket.
“We enjoyed riding the ponies early on and were lucky enough to do some pony racing at the local Welsh tracks and the flapping tracks at young ages and picked up a bit of experience doing that.
“At the age of 16, I then went to the Racing School in Newmarket on a nine-week course and was then allocated to Andrew Balding’s yard.
“I started there at the age of 17 and by the time I was 18 he applied for my licence. It took me a while to get rolling and get my first winner and make things work, but from 2008 everything started moving pretty well.
“It’s been hard to work to get to where I am right now, but things have progressed nicely and over the last year I’ve had some nice chances, so hopefully we’re getting there.”
The star horse of the year for Probert has been the Balding-trained Sandrine, whom he steered to a debut success at Kempton before partnering her to win both the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket.
The rider is thankful to both Balding and Sandrine’s owner-breeder Kirsten Rausing for keeping faith in him when dual champion jockey Oisin Murphy, who also rides regularly for the Kingsclere handler, could easily have been called up.
“I know exactly how hard this industry can be and it’s all about being in favour,” said Probert.
“Oisin has been champion jockey for the last two years and because he’s part of the yard it’s easy to look at him for the rides.
“I’m very grateful that I get the opportunities that I do get – to get on this very special filly and to be stuck by and have the faith in me to ride a filly of her class, I’m very grateful.
“It’s a bit demoralising at times (losing rides), I’m not going to lie, but that’s racing for you.
“They (owners) are looking for the best results and when you can get a jockey with better stats, you’re going to look elsewhere.
“It’s all about having a chance and it’s nice to have someone that believes in you.”
Sandrine is likely to be a hot favourite to make it four from four on the Knavesmire.
The daughter of Bobby’s Kitten will have to concede 3lb to each of her rivals, but having proved herself on heavy ground at Ascot and good to firm on the July course, Probert is expecting her to be hard to beat.
He said: “She’s quite a light filly and I didn’t know how she was going to handle the ground at Ascot, but pure ability got her through.
“She had to prove herself then at Newmarket on faster conditions and pretty much did it the hard way as she was away from the field and I had to challenge wide.
“I had a sit on her last week and she seems in great form. She loves her work and loves going out with the string – she has no downfalls.
“Obviously she’ll have to carry a penalty in the Lowther, but she’s a classy filly and looks the best one in the race.
“Fingers crossed, she’ll give a good account of herself.”