James Bowen admits it would be a real “feather in his cap” if either Call Me Lord or Peejaybee could provide him with a first victory at Sandown Park on Virgin Bet Contenders Day tomorrow (Saturday 5th February) and help him become the latest jockey to ride a winner at every British Jumps racecourse.
After partnering Supreme Escape to victory in the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick last month, the 20 year old just needs to tick off Sandown Park, having tasted defeat on all of his 30 previous rides at the Esher venue.
It was only after his older brother Sean reached the same landmark when riding a winner at Catterick in December that Bowen realised he was within touching distance of achieving the same milestone as well.
The rider, who was the 2017/18 champion conditional jockey, said: “I’ve had a couple of good chances at Sandown before but it has never really happened for one reason or another.
“I remember riding one of Richard Spencer’s one day and probably got to the front too soon and then I had one for Nicky (Henderson) who was in front but that fell at the last.
“I’ve had really good chances there when I was claiming as a conditional jockey but over the last couple of years I’ve not really had that many good chances and I’ve probably not had that many rides there as I’ve often been at other meetings.
“Riding a winner at every Jump track so early on in my career would be a good feather in the cap as it is something a lot of people don’t do until the end of their career.
“Most southern jockeys wouldn’t have done the northern tracks so quickly but obviously my dad (Peter Bowen) doesn’t mind going up north and I’ve had plenty of chances for Irish trainers up there as well, so I’ve been quite lucky in that sense.
“When Sean did it at Catterick I then went looking at the stats and saw that I had two tracks left. At that point, I thought that it would be quite possible to do fairly soon. I thought Catterick would be the last but it has turned out to be Sandown.”
First up for Bowen at the weekend will be the Nicky Henderson-trained Call Me Lord, who he expects will have no problem seeing out the extended 2m 7f trip in the Grade Three Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle.
Bowen has already enjoyed one memorable day aboard the nine year old after steering him to Grade Two glory in the 2019 Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
He said: “Call Me Lord has been very good to me and I’ve ridden him plenty. He has actually got quite a nice weight with Easysland running so hopefully he can run well.
“Even though he has won an International Hurdle at Cheltenham, he loves a right-handed track and he stays quite well.
“This trip will stretch him but I’ve enough confidence that he will stay it anyway.”
Having failed to take to fences on his first two starts this season Call Me Lord put in a more encouraging effort on his return to smaller obstacles when finishing third under 11st 12lb in last month’s Listed Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton Park.
Bowen added: “He ran really well the last day at Kempton and that was a sign of him coming back to form.
“He actually was a little bit sticky early on in the Lanzarote after having the two starts over fences but hopefully he will be back in the groove on Saturday.
“He stayed on well from a slowly-run race the last day and that didn’t suit him either so hopefully we will get a true run race which would suit him better.”
Should victory for Bowen not materialise aboard Call Me Lord he will have a further opportunity to open his Sandown Park account aboard the Richard Spencer-trained Peejaybee in the concluding Virgin Bet Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (2m 4f).
He added: “He ran really well at Doncaster and the winner (Inishbiggle) has run well since back there.
“He is still getting the hang of it, although he isn’t a bad jumper. I’d say he will get three miles in time so the stiff two and a half will suit him as well - he is pretty versatile.
“Whether he is well-handicapped I don’t know but hopefully he can go well.”