Shergar Cup Day at Ascot is a fun and action packed afternoon of flat racing with an International vibe. Our man Kevin O'Malley takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the 12 jockeys making up the four teams and ranks them in the order as he sees things...
No. 12 - JAMIE KAH -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 8.7/1) -- (Team: Girls)
This young lady called British racing “Backward” yesterday. I’ve no intention of getting into weight allowances/opportunities for lady jockeys, but hey Jamie, if you think British racing is backward, why come to Ascot for this event? If she does ride a winner, no doubt she will be gushing on camera about what an honour it is (maybe she’s completely cold-hearted and won’t, who knows) to be here & blah, blah, blah. Go figure. Clearly a precocious talent, but I’m not sure I like her stick work style much and yesterday’s comments mean she has to be No. 12 here. Sorry, Miss Kah, hiding places around here are few and far between. Grace the hallowed turf with some top riding on Saturday and you may be forgiven.
No. 11 - YUGA KAWADA -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 10.3/1) -- (Team: Rest of World)
This fella is better than most Japanese jockeys, certainly better than that Yutaka Take chap who used to come over here. Kawada actually rode a few for Roger Varian in the UK last year and that experience will help at Ascot...probably. He’s won all five of the Japanese classics and is a prolific winner, I’m just not sure where he sits in relation to the best riders on show here. I guess we’ll soon find out.
No. 10 - MARK ZAHRA -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 8.7/1) -- (Team: Rest of World)
I have to admit, I am not a fan of Aussie jockeys on the whole. There are a couple of exceptions (shout out to Kerrin McEvoy, has he left the UK again? A shame.), but for the most part and with the grand scheme of things firmly in mind, they’re all useless. Mark Zahra has ridden 13 Group 1 winners and is clearly a successful professional in this sport, but in terms of pure jockeyship, there are levels to things and I couldn’t have him in single digits here. He'll probably ride a four-timer now and throw eggs at me, but that's fine too. We're all here for a good time, not a long time, so let's not take life too seriously.
No. 09 - NANAKO FUJITA -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 10.2/1) -- (Team: Girls)
Now this young lady is interesting and she has a big opportunity to show some star quality here. At the age of 21, Nanako Fujita is making waves in Japan and her reputation is building. Her name sounds like a character out of a Final Fantasy game and with her long, pretty and youthful presence, she looks like a character from Final Fantasy as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing how she handles the day.
No. 08 - VINCENT CHAK-YIU HO -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 9.9/1) -- (Team: Rest of World)
This HK based rider is OK, I remember seeing him ride a winner for Mark Johnston last August, mostly because I backed the 3rd. C Y Ho isn’t the strongest behind the saddle, but he knows his job and his best chance of a second winner on UK shores will be in the 2.50pm aboard Power Of Darkness. I think Tadgh O’Shea may run close aboard Via Serendipity, but it is a very competitive race.
No. 07 - FILIP MINARIK -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 8.4/1) -- (Team: Europe)
Well he was born in Czech Republic but is basically a German now, which tends to upset a few Brits in one way or another. Usually because of penalty shootouts, sometimes because of war...I just struggle with the language and the accent, but for sure give me all of the German beer and sausages - all day long, Sir, do keep em coming. Other than that, this is a really tidy pilot with a nice style and flow in moving a horse forward. He has some very live chances on Saturday and could be a surprise package on the day.
No. 06 - ANDRE DE VRIES -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 9.4/1) -- (Team: Europe)
He’s as old as the hills at the age of 50 (Team Europe are all getting on a bit, to be fair, but age is no barrier to great jockeyship, just look at Frankie!), but a really talented rider and another on the list for “surprise” package on Saturday. He’s ridden over 2200 winners across nine countries, knows his way around Ascot and is as solid as they come.
No. 05 - HAYLEY TURNER -- (Average Price of 5 Rides:8/1) -- (Team: Girls)
It’s hard to keep up with Hayley Turner, sometimes she’s retired from the saddle, sometimes she’s not. Sometimes she’s on the telly, sometimes she’s not. Sometimes she rides really well, sometimes she doesn’t. What Turner most certainly is though, is a pioneer and standard bearer for all the lady jockeys around and a damned fantastic jockey regardless of sex. It would be downright rude to not have her in the top five.
No. 04 - TADHG O’SHEA -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 8.3/1) -- (Team: GB & Ire)
Tadhg O’Shea has been making some serious wonga over in the UAE for some years now, mopping up all manner of hefty prizes and matching Ted Durcan for number of titles won over there. He’s a good bit better than Durcan was though, in my humble opinion. The 37-year-old Irishman will captain the GB/Ire team and has a healthy book of rides for his first Shergar Cup appearance.
No. 03 - GERALD MOSSE -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 9.4/1) -- (Team: Europe)
The man with the magic hands. If the whip was banned in the morning, this lad would win the lot. He hardly needs it given how brilliantly quiet, tender and masterful he is on a horse. The popular Frenchman has been making hay on UK shores the past couple of seasons and is a seriously gifted rider. Mosse also has a nice book of rides on Saturday. Hopefully one or two of them can improve his 3% strike rate at the track, either way he is definitely one of my favourites in the saddle.
No. 02 - DANIEL TUDHOPE -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 8/1) -- (Team: GB & Ire)
If Daniel Tudhope was half a stone lighter he’d probably be a multiple champion jockey by now. As things stand, he is giving that accolade a bold fist of it in 2019 and riding right at the very top of his game. In reality, he should be No. 1 here but for a soft spot I’ve always had for the man below. Few jockeys in the world have Tudhope’s quality, in and out of the saddle.
No. 01 - JAMIE SPENCER -- (Average Price of 5 Rides: 7.9/1) -- (Team: GB & Ire)
Spencer is No. 1 spot by virtue of the fact that he is quite comfortably the most insulted and ridiculed jockey of all time, yet easily one of the most naturally gifted men to ever to ride a racehorse. This guy has balls of steel rarely seen and evidently does a good job of taking criticism on the chin. He also loves a good party, as I seem to remember one night at a certain local in Central London, many many moons ago, Spencer having a little dance on top of the pool table during a lock-in. Legend. His style of riding can either frustrate you to within an inch of utter despair, or it can provide the most thrilling of punting highlights imaginable. An unheralded genius in the saddle, Mr Spencer has a good book of rides here and if on a going day, the Irishman could steal the show. In terms of absolute class and natural ability in the saddle, he is the best on show here, by quite some way.