Jockey Connor Brace is one of the success stories of the current jump racing scene in Wales.
The 19-year-old is based with leading trainer Fergal O’Brien and last week he achieved another milestone in his career – he rode out his claim.
The landmark event happened on Thursday when Premier Magic won at Leicester (rather aptly the horse was trained by Connor’s friend Bradley Gibbs, one of the most successful point to point riders in Wales in recent years).
For those unfamiliar with horse racing, jump jockeys start their careers as ‘conditional’ riders. These jockeys are entitled to a reduction, known as a claim, in the weight carried by his or her horse to effectively compensate for their lack of experience. Once they ride 75 winners, they lose this allowance.
Connor’s grandfather David Brace OBE trains horses at Dunraven Stud near Bridgend. He’s a big supporter of point to pointing and horse racing across Wales and has been a huge influence on the jockey’s career.
Young Connor first took an interest in horses when helping out at David’s stables aged around five – I’m told he even had his own small wheel barrow and fork so he could muck out!
He started off in pony racing and had his first ride at the Lydstep point to point in 2011 at the age of 10. He spent many summers going to Newmarket Racing School.
He became an amateur jockey at the age of 16, left home and spent four months working for leading trainer Phillip Hobbs. He was a successful point to point jockey and won the novice riders’ championship. He was then approached by trainer Fergal O Brien about becoming his conditional jockey and that’s where his professional career has blossomed.
His first winner as a conditional jockey came at Perth in September 2018 on Mighty Leader, trained by Fergal. Connor’s biggest success to date came aboard Verdana Blue in the 2019 Scottish Champion Hurdle for trainer Nicky Henderson. I’d like to wish him the best of luck in the future.
Another rider having a good run is the 2020 Welsh Jump Jockey of the Year, Adam Wedge. He rode a treble at Fakenham on Friday including two for trainer Laura Morgan who has been supplying him with plenty of winners.
James Bowen’s season has picked up. He’s ridden three winners in the last week and is on 23 for the season. Jack Tudor continues to impress and he rode a winner for the powerful David Pipe operation when First Lord De Cuet scored at Wincanton on Saturday.
Finally, my thoughts are with the family and friends of Aneurin Gravell, the co-owner of one of our sponsors, the West Wales Raiders rugby league team who passed away recently. He was laid to rest last weekend.