Jockey Felix de Giles
PUBLISHED: 13:54 31 January 2010 | UPDATED: 08:57 21 February 2013
young jockey climbs ladder...and already has a Cheltenham winner under his belt
Felix de Giles is a very fortunate young man who has made the most of the opportunity afforded him. He has been given a great start to his career, being employed as conditional jockey at Nicky Henderson's powerful Seven Barrows stable in Lambourn. Henderson's team hit a purple patch at the end of 2008, with Felix, who celebrated his 20th birthday in February, playing his part in the success story.
At the time of writing Felix had ridden 23 winners this season, the majority of them for his boss, who will give him all the guidance he needs. He can also call upon the advice of the Henderson stable jockey Barry Geraghty, together with Marcus Foley and Andrew Tinkler, who also form an important part of the Seven Barrows team, and the now retired Mick Fitzgerald is still very involved with the yard.
His seasonal tally gives Felix a fighting chance of being in contention for the 2008-09 conditional jockeys' title, although he faces stiff competition from the likes of the holder, Brian Hughes, together with Aidan Coleman, Donal Fahy and David England.
Felix got 2009 off to a flying start by riding The Queen's home-bred Midsummer Magic to win a maiden hurdle at Fakenham on New Year's Day. After the race Felix explained, "She's a tough little horse and seems to be going the right way. She jumped nicely and has the right attitude for the job and will hopefully improve for the run." One newspaper pundit remarked that, "The horse was given a peach of a ride."
He was also successful aboard the Neil Mulholland-trained Maori Legend in a competitive handicap chase at Folkestone in mid-January.
Mr & Mrs Richard Kelvin Hughes's useful mare Hora provided him with three wins during 2008, including victories at Aintree and Ascot, and he was also successful three times with Henry Ponsonby's Scots Dragoon, who was bred by former top flat jockey Willie Carson. Dual winners include First Point, Mucho Loco and Colonial Jim.
He has a Cheltenham winner to his credit, scoring on Andytown in the Conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle at the high-profile Open meeting in November 2008.
Felix is a very neat and stylish rider and other trainers to have snapped up his services include Peter Haslem, Alison Thorpe, Johnny Manners and Don Cantillon.
He had a through grounding in the Pony Club, where he represented his branch on various horse trials and show jumping teams, and in the hunting field. He also honed his skills in pony racing, winning the inaugural final at Wincanton. In addition, like so many of the current crop of highly promising young jockeys, Felix is a product of the point-to-point field, riding 11 winners between the flags over three seasons. His first winner came at Lockinge in 2005 aboard Johnny Manners's Hi Rudolf, but he was sidelined for six weeks in 2006 after breaking his leg.
His first ride under National Hunt rules came as a 16-year-old at the Cheltenham Hunter Chase evening in May 2005, when he finished fourth on the family's Father Jim. It was the colourful Wiltshire trainer Johnny Manners who also provided him with his first winner under Rules, namely Hunting Lodge in a maiden hurdle at Huntingdon in June 2006. He partnered several more winners under National Hunt Rules before taking out his conditional licence on October 3, 2007.
His father, Jonathan, who trains a few horses at Stanton Fitzwarren, near Swindon, is full of praise for the part pony racing played in his progression. "Riding in pony races was a great help to Felix and enabled him to get his eye in," explains Jonathan. "Pony racing took the pressure off him when he had his first ride in a point-to-point. They gave him a great opportunity to put into practice what he had already been learning about race riding."
Horses have always been in his blood with Felix admitting, "I've been riding since I can remember, racing is what I've always wanted to do." His most admired jockey is multi-champion AP McCoy, who he declares is "Just the best!"
Many people have noticed the latent talent of Felix, and nothing would give him more pleasure than to really hit the headlines by riding a winner at this month's great Cheltenham National Hunt Festival.
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Diary Dates for this month
2, 9, 21: Stratford-on-Avon National Hunt Races. Tel: 01789 267949; www.stratfordracecourse.net
7: Duke of Beaufort's Hunt point-to-point (Didmarton). Tel: 07974 396766
8, 18: Warwick National Hunt Races. Tel: 01926 491553; www.warwickracecourse.co.uk
10-13: Cheltenham National Hunt Festival. Tel: 01242 513014; www.cheltenham.co.uk
21: VWH point-to-point (Siddington, near Cirencester). Tel: 01285 770167
28-29: Gatcombe one day event (near Minchinhampton). Tel: 01453 887730; www.gatcombe-events.co.uk
29: Ledbury point-to-point (Maisemore Park, near Gloucester). Tel: 07761 461611