Sport | Horse Racing

The boy from Brazil

The youngest of ten brothers and sisters, De Sousa has come up the hard way

  • By Leslie Wilson Jr, Racing & Special Features Writer
  • Published: 00:00 February 18, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Francois Nel /Gulf News
  • Happy Dubai, ridden by jockey Silvestre de Sousa, wins the Jaguar XJ Trophy. De Sousa is part of the Godolphin operation, along with Frankie Dettori.

Dubai: Resolute is an adjective that could well have been coined to describe Silvestre de Sousa, the exciting Brazilian jockey who bids to surpass his own achievements and secure his place in the upper echelons of horse racing.

His incredible performance in the 2011 British flat season, where he finished runner-up to Paul Hanagan in the race for the championship, could not have come at a better time.

The youngest of ten brothers and sisters, De Sousa has come up the hard way. Silver spoons were in short supply in Sao Paulo, where teenagers were taught the value of hard work and how to make the most of fleeting opportunities.

Although he was not born into a racing family, De Sousa was destined to become a top jockey after a chance meeting with established Brazilian rider Fausto Durso, a champion in Macau.

His riding skills soon became apparent, as he won the apprentice title in Brazil before setting off to Britain, where he has emerged as one of the best riding talents, showing enough potential to land a job with Godolphin, one of the world's most successful racing operations.

Reflecting on all that has happened in his career since he notched his first British winner in 2006, De Sousa said he was still hungry for success. Hunger, both literally and metaphorically, is what drives champions and De Sousa clearly has a huge appetite.

Never satisfied

"I try very hard to get better as a jockey with each race that I ride. I'm never satisfied, I want to improve all the time," he told Gulf News.

"I try very hard to learn from my mistakes and not keep repeating them. I spend a lot of my spare time watching videos of my races and some of the great riders, like Mick Kinane in particular.

"He's a great jockey who I really look up to. He has the perfect balance and brilliant judgment. It's easy to make a mistake in a race that lasts about two minutes — you can make your move too early or too late — you do not have the luxury to innovate. So I believe that timing is everything, that's the difference between winning and losing."

De Sousa's skill for perfect timing cannot be questioned. He rides light but is strong physically and has developed the right attitude, which epitomises the new breed of jockeys.

It was this attitude that caught the attention of Godolphin's racing manager Simon Crisford, who invited De Sousa to join the team in Dubai during the 2011-2012 UAE season.

Did he say yes without any hesitation? "Not really. I was flattered to be given such an opportunity, after all Godolphin is one of the biggest and best stables in the world," he said.

"But I also had commitments in India, where I had been riding for the past four years during the winter. I had to give it a real think, but it wasn't hard to finally decide that Dubai is where I wanted to be at this point in my career. You do not get opportunities like these very often. And I'm glad I did, it's been a fantastic season so far."

Higher strike rate

De Sousa has ridden seven winners during the Dubai World Cup Carnival and is only superseded by Godolphin colleague Frankie Dettori, who has three more. However, the Brazilian has the drop on the Italian in terms of a higher strike rate.

The support that he gets has become more and more evident with each success and has assured him a place in the hearts of UAE racing fans, who can be hard to please.

"I really love the atmosphere racing enjoys here in the UAE," De Sousa said. "It's different to England, where riding is more of a job. You have racing every day at different racecourses and you need to work closely with your agent to decide what decision to take.

"Out here, it's a lot more organised. Fortunately, I have had some great opportunities to ride some top horses. I have no complaints — everything is going along just fine."

Now that he has established himself in Dubai, what comes next for the man with the ice cool temperament, nerves of steel and physique honed by hours of disciplined training?

"One of the reasons I chose to ride in Dubai was to maintain my fitness, which is of paramount importance to me," he said. "I would also like to ride in the Dubai World Cup and, with a little luck, even win it."

Factfile

Name: Silvestre de Sousa

Born: December 31, 1980, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Current base: Thirsk, North Yorkshire and Godolphin Stables, Dubai.

Best horse he has ridden: Namibian.

Horse he would liked to have ridden: High Chaparral or Sea The Stars.

Most admired jockey: Mick Kinane.

Race he would like to win: Dubai World Cup or Epsom Derby.

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