CHIPPENHAM jockey James Harding is celebrating a dream start to his 2014 campaign after landing two winners in his first two races.
The 21-year-old, whose family live in Monkton Park, showed few signs of rustiness as he returned to the competitive saddle after a five-month break, following his joint triumph in the 2013 Amateur Gentlemen Jockeys Flat championship.
Harding, based with Upper Lambourn trainer Jonathan Portman, struck first on a guest ride on Novel Dancer for West Sussex handler Lydia Richards in the Quicksilverslots Fun On The High Street Amateur Riders' Handicap over one mile four furlongs on Lingfield’s all-weather track last month.
The former Hardenhuish School pupil then followed up by guiding Portman’s Jebril to a seven-length triumph at Newbury last Saturday, significantly boosting his hopes of lifting the amateur jockey’s title this season.
“I couldn’t have dreamed of a better start,’’ he told the Gazette & Herald.
“The ride on Novel Dancer happened by chance. I rang up and tried to get a ride and Lydia gave me a go.
“It was my first ride for five months and the horse was bred by The Queen.
“After we crossed the line, as soon as I tried to pull up, I came off the horse and ended up eating a bit of all-weather track!”
Last Saturday’s victory proved more of a family affair as Harding, supported by parents Clive and Glenda and grandfather Malcolm, brought 4-1 shot Jebril home in the one mile, two furlongs Al Basti Equiworld Amateur Riders’ Handicap The horse was led out by Harding’s brother Matthew, who has returned from New Zealand to work at Portman’s yard.
“All the family were jumping for joy,’’ said Harding, who is due to ride again at Lingfield on Saturday.
“I was just want to have as many rides as I can. My total tally is six winners from 18 rides, which is pretty good, but I just wanted to keep my head grounded.’’
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