You are currently viewing Grade One winning jockey Lizzie Kelly talks to Sean Bowen, the quiet man scaling new heights as he targets jump jockeys’ title

Grade One winning jockey Lizzie Kelly talks to Sean Bowen, the quiet man scaling new heights as he targets jump jockeys’ title

  • Post category:UK Racing News
  • Reading time:9 mins read


The quiet man is suddenly making a big noise and enjoying the glare of the spotlight rather than trying to avoid it.

Sean Bowen seemed to have spent his career happy to be operating with relative anonymity but he has embraced a new world which sees him leading the jump jockeys’ championship by 29 winners after his latest double at Lingfield on Thursday.

He may have a target on his back and nearest rival Harry Cobden has the bit between his teeth but Bowen believes that with the support of his trainer father Peter, plus main winner suppliers Olly Murphy, Martin Keighley and Gordon Elliott, he will not be caught.

It is certainly hard to see how reigning champion Brian Hughes, another at the head of the chasing pack, can make up a 42-winner deficit.

Bowen does not downplay how much it would mean to him to be crowned champion. Make no mistake he desperately wants the crown. The jockey, who has chances of adding to his tally with five rides at Bangor on Saturday, said: ‘I’m more confident now. I used to hate speaking to the media. I was so bad in front of a camera.

Leading the jumps’ jockey championship, Sean Bowen is a quiet man pursuing a big prize

Bowen leads the jump jockeys’ championship by 29 winners after his latest double at Lingfield

Bowen leads the jump jockeys’ championship by 29 winners after his latest double at Lingfield 

‘I suppose you grow in confidence in yourself but rightly or wrongly I’ve always believed I can ride. I have kept improving but I always felt like I was good enough. I don’t feel like I’ve changed.

‘Every successful sportsman I look at has a lot of self-belief. If you don’t then you probably won’t end up being as good as you should be.

‘I’m fairly relaxed because there is a long way to go until the end of the season in April. But I’ve had a very good start and I have got good stables behind me.’

Still only 26, Bowen has been part of the racing furniture for a decade, seeing off Nico de Boinville in 2015 to become the youngest ever winner of the Conditional Jump Jockeys’ title.

He has been around racehorses virtually since he could walk and it is probably most diplomatic to say they played a bigger part in his life than school and teachers.

He and his two brothers — Mickey, who works for Willie Mullins, and fellow jockey James, based with Nicky Henderson —spent hours in a horsebox with their father and mother Karen as they transported horses from their base in Haverfordwest on the west Wales coast to tracks around the country.

Not that Sean was initially in love with racing. He recalled: ‘It was good because it was all family together. We’d all go in the lorry and we could play G1 Jockey on the PlayStation all the way to the races!

‘I remember the Racing channel being on the TV in the lorry all the time and it used to annoy me, I just wanted to be on my PlayStation. It wasn’t really until I started pony racing at about 10 or 11 I started getting interested.

‘Even though I wasn’t paying that much attention, I was probably picking up more than I thought when Tom O’Brien, AP McCoy, Jamie Moore and Richard Johnson rode for Dad.

‘I was 12 when I started riding out and I remember schooling over a point-to-point course when I was 14 — it was petrifying but Dad thought it was a good idea so I gave it a go. Mum and Dad shipped me and James over to Gordon Elliott’s in Ireland when I was 14. We’d go over, spend three weekends pony racing with the week in between at Gordon’s.

‘Without James I’d have been homesick but we loved it. We’d ride six or seven lots a day. I’ve never been so tired! We did everything, mucking out, creosoting and painting stables as well as riding out. We learnt a lot.’

Bowen’s career has taken in stints with champion trainer Paul Nicholls, alongside Cobden, and Harry Fry, who supplied his two career Grade One wins, If The Cap Fits in the 2019 Liverpool Hurdle and Metier in the 2021 Tolworth Hurdle.

Bowen switched to being a freelance rider, and got more mounts as a result of the decision

Bowen switched to being a freelance rider, and got more mounts as a result of the decision 

But he feels he is most at home now operating as a freelance.

Bowen added: ‘I was thinking about it the other day, how little I remember from when I was 16. I was living in dream world a little bit and just floating along, turning up riding winners.

‘It happened very quickly. I started at Paul’s and rode loads of winners and it was very easy at that time but I then felt like I was stuck in a rut when Harry Cobden got his job there.

‘He was younger than me and I’d been there for longer but it was the right thing for Paul to do because Harry was better than me at the time.

‘I felt I had to move on and try something different so I went home that summer and worked for Dad and had an incredible summer. I ended up riding 91 winners, a really good season.

‘I was freelance able to ride for more people and grow more contacts. I picked up a couple of spare rides for Harry Fry and when Noel Fehily retired I got more mounts, including winning the Grade One on If The Cap Fits.’

Bowen has hired a driver and changed his diet as he looks to pursue the championship

Bowen has hired a driver and changed his diet as he looks to pursue the championship

Bowen’s focus on a title challenge narrowed by sharpening up his routine. He also appointed a driver to help him focus solely on riding. His 476 mounts are more than any other rider this season.

‘When I started I used to have a lot of takeaways and my diet was terrible,’ Bowen said. ‘Now my diet is good, I go to the gym as often as I can, I have got a driver and I use a jockey coach pretty regularly. I try to keep as healthy and professional as I possibly can.’

The changes have worked. Bowen’s career has moved to a new level and he has big ambitions.

He would love to ride his first Cheltenham Festival winner and win the Grand National on a horse trained by his father. But he has laid down a marker for the 2023-24 season and it is the title in his sights.

It will take some effort for any of his colleagues to catch him.



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