Crowley says winning first classic in Sheikh Hamdan's colours would be 'special'

London (AFP) –


English jockey Jim Crowley is not one to get "wrapped up in emotion" but he told AFP it "would be very special" if he wins his first English classic in the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum's silks on Saturday.

Crowley, 42, has enjoyed huge success for Sheikh Hamdan since he became his number one jockey in 2016, notably with champion sprinter Bataash.

Sheikh Hamdan, older brother of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed and one of the most influential figures in horse racing over the past four decades, died last month aged 75.

Crowley will don the famous blue and white colours to ride the fancied Mutasaabeq in the first classic of the season, the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

His trainer Charlie Hills decided it was worth the £30,000 ($42,000) fee to supplement him.

Crowley said of nine-time champion owner Sheikh Hamdan that "you would not meet a more honest and loyal man" and paid tribute to a hands-on owner.

"We would speak normally after big races or even before as he was keen on the tactics," Crowley said.

"He was really knowledgeable and loved his horses, he liked them being ridden forward in races.

"He was a good man to ride for and that is why it would be so special to win.

"It would be a great story if he (Mutasaabeq) was to do it."

Crowley said Sheikh Hamdan's influence on the industry was enormous globally -- he won two of the most iconic flat races, the Epsom Derby and the Melbourne Cup, twice.

"It is a huge operation and he has left a massive legacy behind him," said Crowley.

"It is so important and means a lot to me putting on those silks as they are known worldwide."

- 'Knocking on the crossbar' -

Crowley is a rare bird in having switched from being a jumps jockey to the flat 17 years ago, despite "nine out of 10 people" telling him he was making the wrong decision.

However, over 2,000 winners and a jockey's championship in 2016 later -- he rode 46 winners in a month that season, breaking the long-standing record held by legends Gordon Richards and Fred Archer -- he has proved them wrong.

While he is confident of a big run by Mutasaabeq on Saturday, he is not going to allow his heart rule his head.

He says many dangers lurk in denying him his landmark English classic and the late Sheikh Hamdan's first since Tagroodha won the 2014 English Oaks.

"I am not going to get wrapped up in emotion, I am not like that anyway.

"He is going there worthy of running in the race and he has won well at Newmarket twice.

"I am under no illusions as I have twice had very good chances in the 2000 Guineas and fallen just short.

"A tough task lies ahead, but I am really looking forward to it. Having sat on him this morning (Wednesday) I can tell he is in good form."

Crowley said that after a terrific 2020 season, kicking this one off with classic success would be the perfect way to put a pep in his step.

"I have won a German Guineas but that is not the same as winning one on your own turf," he said. "It would tick all the boxes."

He came close, finishing second in two St Legers and in the Oaks.

"I have been knocking on the crossbar so it would be lovely to put one away."

If not now Crowley says there will be other occasions.

"I am 42 but like a well looked-after car I do not have that many miles on the clock. I am relatively lightly used, the engine is purring."