x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Silvestre De Sousa to join Dettori in Godolphin ranks

Offered job to replace retiring Richard Hills, jockey opts instead to join Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's operation and will move to Newmarket.

Jockey Silvestre De Sousa, aboard Factory Time at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai recently, has ridden nine winners, mostly trained by Saeed bin Suroor, from 50 rides so far.
Jockey Silvestre De Sousa, aboard Factory Time at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai recently, has ridden nine winners, mostly trained by Saeed bin Suroor, from 50 rides so far.

Silvestre De Sousa has accepted an offer from Godolphin to be their second rider behind Frankie Dettori, and said he was in an awkward position as two of the most prominent figures in racing vied for his signature.

De Sousa has been riding in the UAE this year for his first full season at the invitation of Godolphin's Simon Crisford, and after impressing in the saddle the Dubai-based operation's racing manager offered the Brazil-born rider a full-time contract two weeks ago.

As an illustration of De Sousa's burgeoning reputation, the 31 year old was also offered the position as first jockey to Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, following the news this week that Richard Hills is to step down after 15 years in the role.

"I got offered the Sheikh Hamdan job, but I was in a tricky situation as the boss [Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] came to me first. It was a nice situation to be in," De Sousa said yesterday.

Godolphin will require De Sousa to move to Newmarket, 200 miles from his base in the north of England, where, powered by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed's horses trained by Mark Johnston, he mounted his tireless, yet ultimately fruitless, assault on the jockeys' championship last season.

De Sousa had the interests of his family, long-term girlfriend Victoria Behan, a former jockey, and son Ryan, to consider, as well as his deep-rooted connections in Yorkshire, which is why he only made his decision this week.

"Simon invited me to Dubai for this season and the team are going great guns over here and I have picked up a few winners," he said.

"I enjoy working with the team in the mornings and that's a big part of it - that's why anyone should do a job. Simon asked me personally, which also helps and it was my first offer.

"When you have to make a move down south like that you can't make a decision overnight. It will be tough but I'll be up and down the country."

Last season in Britain De Sousa covered almost 50,000 miles in pursuit of Paul Hanagan in the championship, but failed on the final day of the season to overhaul his great rival. In the UAE this year he has ridden nine winners from 50 rides with successes on Godolphin's Songcraft, Quick Wit and Sandagiyr, all trained by Saeed bin Suroor.

"He made a great impression when he was with Mark Johnston last season and he has enjoyed a lot of success at this year's Carnival," said Crisford. "He will be a big asset to our team and we are very much looking forward to a successful association."

De Sousa's contract does not begin until after the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse on March 31 so he will not be riding either of Godolphin's entries in tonight's UAE Oaks.

Mahmood Al Zarooni runs Falls Of Lora, ridden by Mickael Barzalona, and Pimpernel, who will have Frankie Dettori in the saddle in a group of 11 horses to carry the royal blue silks across the card.

sports@thenational.ae