By Steve Moran
Hugh Bowman, Australia’s leading Group 1 jockey, is ever the ‘feet on the ground’ realist and measured in his assessment of his major race prospects despite his remarkable success in recent seasons and an especially stellar 2016.
And that considered approach is evident again as Bowman looks forward to claiming back-to-back wins, aboard Werther, in Sunday’s HK$20 million G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m). He sees the positives and the negatives.
Bowman, who boasts 11 Group 1 wins at home in the current 2016/2017 racing season, says the key to Werther’s winning chance may well be his ability to get the horse to settle as well as he did when successful in 2016.
“The biggest thing is getting him to relax in his races. I’d say that last year’s QEII is the only race I’ve ridden him in where he’s really settled and relaxed in the run and we saw how that allowed him to finish off his race,” Bowman said in reference to his four and a half lengths winning margin in last year’s contest.
“Obviously I’m looking forward to Sunday’s race. I don’t think the race is as strong, on paper at least, as last year but in saying that he (Werther) hasn’t quite had the same grounding, hasn’t had the same amount of racing leading into this.
“I think the harder the race and the more intense the contest, the better he goes. And there might not be much pressure early in this race, which isn’t ideal. Even if Joao (Moreira) chooses to roll forward on Neorealism, you know that he’s not going to do so at any breakneck speed,” Bowman said.
Nevertheless, Bowman remains fundamentally confident about the John Moore-trained Werther, who is unbeaten in three runs at the course and distance - two at G1 level and the other, the BMW Hong Kong Derby. “If he relaxes he’ll finish over the top of them,” he said.
Bowman, 36, has partnered Werther in each of his four Hong Kong wins, and from Werther to Winx to his win in Hong Kong’s IJC (International Jockeys Championship), 2016 proved a memorable calendar year for the man who is now Australia’s most sought after jockey.
He is currently rated the world’s top jockey by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ World’s Best Jockey standings, which awards points based on performances in the World’s Top 100 Group 1 Races.
“Last year really was amazing for me. The stuff dreams are made of,” Bowman said.
This year has begun just as propitiously for Bowman who boasts 30 Group 1 wins in Australia over the last three seasons. He comes off three Group 1 wins at Sydney’s recent two-day The Championships meeting, having won on Winx, Bonneval and Invader.
He has 64 career Group 1 wins in Australia - a tally bettered only by Damien Oliver and Glen Boss among currently active jockeys.
He believes his international experience, including his time in Hong Kong, has been integral to his development. “I needed to travel. It took me out of my comfort zone and helped me develop as a person and as a rider,” he said of his time in the UK, Japan and Hong Kong.
“I’ve been riding quite frequently in Hong Kong since I had a stint there in 2014 and I love the challenge of competing there,” he said.
Hugh Bowman celebrates after winning the 2016 APQEII Cup aboard Werther.
Hugh Bowman steers Werther to an impressive victory in the 2016 Hong Kong Derby.