Carlisle’s top jockey Ben Curtis experienced the extreme highs and lows of his sport – in just 24 action-packed hours.
The 29-year-old achieved a lifetime ambition when a hat-trick of victories at Carlisle took him to 100 winners in a calendar year for the first time.
The following day - and with two more winners already bagged at his next meeting in Newcastle - he was unseated beyond the finishing line and landed heavily, dislocating his shoulder.
When he should have been heading home to savour a great run of success that saw him land five wins in seven races – he was instead on his way to hospital.
Now Curtis is recovering at home between bouts of physiotherapy. He missed out on adding to his impressive tally of success at Carlisle’s final flat race meeting of 2018 last Wednesday.
Nevertheless, with 10 wins from 29 rides, he was comfortably clear of his nearest rival PJ McDonald to be named the course’s top rider for the third time in just four years.
At last week’s Carlisle evening meeting, Curtis had notched an early win with Karl Burke’s Praxidice before Collide for Hugo Palmer and, in the last race, Brian Ellison’s Snookered saw him notch his first calendar century of wins.
Curtis said: “It was a brilliant day. I’ve always had 100 winners in a year as one of my goals and to tick it off I was just delighted.
“My agent said I’d do it by Carlisle, but I had a couple of contenders that didn’t win so I thought it was going to be a bit of a stretch to get three there. But my wife had a feeling that I would get it at Carlisle, so she brought the baby to come and see, so it was great they were there for it.
“I think Brodi (Curtis’ five-month-old son) was oblivious to the whole thing but it meant a lot they were with me.”
Curtis was riding out at Burke’s Middleham Moor stables at 6am the next day and then due to ride at Newcastle so there was no time for celebration.
That next meeting started well with an early 14-1 winner for Richard Whitaker.
Another victory followed over two miles on Ellison’s Sugarloaf Mountain, but just past the finishing post Curtis’ day ended abruptly.
He said: “He (Sugarloaf Mountain) spotted something and ducked to the right and I went over his shoulder. If I’d have landed on my back I think it would have just been bruising but I landed on the shoulder and it popped out.
“To be honest it could have been worse and when they said it was dislocated I was OK with that. Thankfully, because we were all pulling up, the others had time to avoid me.”
Curtis faces a fortnight away from the track and is eager to get back in the saddle and continue his most successful season to date.
He said: “There are massive ups and downs in this sport and it’s how you deal with them. On the positive side I’m looking at this as time I can spend with my lad and family.”
Curtis has improved his number of winners each year since moving to the UK from his native Ireland in 2014.
He has 36 career wins at Carlisle and while he has enjoyed marginally more winners at Newcastle (39) and Southwell (38), it’s in Cumbria where his strike record is most impressive.
His 2018 win average is 18%, a significant step forward on his career 13% but at Carlisle that rises to a formidable 31%.
The jockey, a former winner of Carlisle’s historic Cumberland Plate on Alan Swinburn’s Kinema, said he had to thank his trainers for giving him entrants with a chance of winning.
He said: “I get good rides because people I ride for regularly, like Karl Burke and David Barron, send good horses to Carlisle. If you’ve got a bit of a chance you can run with it and with the success I’ve had it gives you an air of confidence.”
Curtis’ latest achievement is set to be marked by the course with a trophy winging its way to the top jockey.
Curtis added: “To finish top at a course three years out of four is just brilliant.”
Having achieved one career ambition, Curtis is clear about what he also wants to tick off before too long – riding a Group One winner.
He said: “That’s the other goal I’ve always had. For me, champion jockey wasn’t a realistic dream that I thought I could achieve.
“But I thought with a lot of hard work and luck I could achieve the 100. And with the Group One you’re just looking for that one horse.”
Molly Dingwall, Carlisle Racecourse General Manager, said: “Ben has had a wonderful season. We were all delighted for him when he hit a century of winners with a thrilling hat-trick here.
”We were looking forward to welcoming him back for our final flat meeting of the season but then he got injured.
“Unfortunately, that’s racing, but we’re reassured he’s on the mend and are sure he’ll be back riding more winners very shortly.”