Ulster continues to provide top jockeys in Britain, writes Ron McKnight.
Sammy Jo Bell from Templepatrick hit the headlines a couple of weeks ago when forming part of the female jockeys team when recording a double of winners and ending the Shergar Cup event by collecting the Silver Saddle as leading rider.
The local girl was a late substitute for the injured, Cathy Gannon and had been enjoying a very successful season.
The apprentice rider who is attached to Richard Fahy’s stable was not the obvious replacement in the ladies team but proved a star not only on the course but with the media and post-event celebrations.
In fact 24 year old Bell was the first apprentice to gain a place in the International jockeys competition.
Sammy Jo was raised in Ballyclare, Co Antrim while her mother, Jacqueline, rode in several point-to-points. She grew up around horses and spent six months working for trainer Jim Bolger after leaving school.
Subsequently she moved on to the stables of Kevin Prendergast, where she worked for three-and-a-half years. She enjoyed a first winner on just her third ride as the Prendergast-trained Celtic Dane scored by a short-head in a Leopardstown handicap on March 27, 2011.
In all Sammy Jo partnered 10 winners in Ireland before moving to the UK at the start of 2013 to ride for North Yorkshire trainer Richard Fahey in search of greater opportunities.
She went on to record her first success in Britain onboard Shot In The Sun in a maiden at Beverley on July 6, 2013, and has ridden 25 winners this year (up to last weekend) vying Cam Hardie, for this year’s Champion Apprentice title.
The Ulster jockey is currently eligible to claim 3lbs and her CV currently details that she was shortlisted for Sky Sports sportswoman of the month for June, 2015, when she had 11 winners, alongside Olympic champions Nicola Adams and Jade Jones and also made the shortlist for the Stobart Jockey of the Month Award in association with Channel 4 for the same period.
Pat Cosgrave is another Ulster jockey to have successfully transferred his talents to Britain.
The Banbridge rider has formed a great relationship with trainer, William Haggas and the pair registered dual high-profile success last week at York when Cosgrave partnered Storm The Stars to win the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes – the traditional trial for the end of season classic with the St Leger at Doncaster and also winning the valuable Group 2 Lowther Stakes for two year old fillies aboard Besharah.
The local jockeys had a tally of 36 winners last weekend earning almost a million in prize money for connections.
Cosgrave rode on the pony racing circuit during his youth and partnered his first winner as a 17-year-old in November 1999. He progressed to become Ireland’s champion apprentice in 2003.
In total he spent two years at Ballydoyle with Aidan O’Brien before making the move to Britain in November 2004.
Cosgrave has proved particularly adept at riding sprinters. He partnered Borderlescott to victory in the 2008 Nunthorpe Stakes and was aboard Markab in the 2010 Haydock Sprint Cup.
He broke his Royal Ascot duck in spectacular style when Society Rock brought him his third Group 1 sprint victory, landing the Golden Jubilee Stakes, the third leg in the Sprint division of the QIPCO Champions Series, in June 2011.