De Sousa clear of the pack as he runs away with jockeys' championship
Silvestre De Sousa said on Friday that results during the first two months of the campaign were key to him winning the Stobart Flat Jockeys championship for a second time.
Level with William Buick on 19 wins at the end of May, the Brazilian was 19 wins clear of nearest rival Ryan Moore by the end of June and was never headed as he raced into a handsome lead that stands at 44 over Jim Crowley going into the final day of the campaign.
Despite having repeatedly played down his chances De Sousa has enjoyed his most prolific year in the saddle, riding more than 200 winners for the first time, even if he has not managed to add a Group 1 race to his tally.
"It's been a long season and it's nice to win at the end of it," said De Sousa, 36. "The effort put in during the early part of the season has paid off. I'm just happy to have had the lead I had all the way through thanks to the support from trainers.
"Last year I was very confident and thought I was going to win but I got beaten. So much depends on the start you get. I had a great start this time."
De Sousa had to wait until last weekend to gain his richest win of 2017 on Withhold in the Cesarewitch and, despite many admirers, his best days were away from the bright lights.
"I think the highlight was when I had six winners in a day," he said. "I had five winners at Sandown from six rides and went to Goodwood and rode another winner that night. I'd love to have had a Group 1 winner but at the moment I haven't managed to get on a Group 1 horse. It's quite hard to do.
"When I was with Godolphin I was having winners in the big races, but when you look at who has the winners at the Grade 1 tracks it's John Gosden, who has Frankie, Charlie Appleby, who has his jockeys, and Sir Michael Stoute, who has his. The rest are making up the numbers.
"If you don't ride for a big stable it's hard to have big-race winners, but my philosophy is if you're not going to be in the first three at a big meeting you go where the best chance is to ride winners."
De Sousa will sign off with just one Champions Day ride – Desert Skyline in the opener – and then plans to have a complete rest. With wife Victoria due to give birth to their second child in November he will not be straying far from Newmarket until the new year.
"I'm going to have a break for two and a half weeks," he said. "It'll be a complete break. I'm going to give the body a bit of rest and come back at the beginning of November and do a bit of riding on the all-weather."
De Sousa has not tired of the relentless nature of the circuit in high summer – indeed, like most in the weighing room he would be happy if the championship term covered the whole turf season, as it used to – and will not be changing his approach in 2018.
"I want to ride as many winners as I can, stay healthy and injury free," he said. "It depends how the season starts. If I'm there with another chance I'll have a go.
"I don't mind all the travelling yet. As long as I have a driver I don't mind. You have to be everywhere and try to find a good horse to take you to the bigger places. Every year is different."
De Sousa will receive his trophy from Stobart boss Andrew Tinkler, but the apprentice championship will be decided at Catterick as the battle between David Egan and Kieran Shoemark looks set to go into the final day of the season.
Both are riding at Newcastle on Friday evening, with Egan starting the night three winners ahead of his rival.
2017 Flat season roll of honour
Champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa
Champion trainer (decided on calendar year) Aidan O'Brien
Champion owner Godolphin
Champion apprentice To be decided