Jason Watson: I never thought I'd even ride at a day like this
This time last year Jason Watson was, like so many others, watching the Stewards' Cup unfold on TV. Fast forward 12 months and the 18-year-old from East Sussex was returning aboard the winner of the cavalry charge, Gifted Master.
It has been a remarkable rise for Watson, who only rode his first winner last May, and his biggest winner to date was also the 50th of his fledgling career.
The jockey, who leads the champion apprentice race after David Egan's decision to turn professional, was bemused as he was thrust into the limelight, and said: "I never thought I'd win it, or even ride at a day like this, and it's a great feeling.
"I'm not too sure how to react at this stage, I'm just in shock. People were asking me today at work if you won this how would you celebrate, and I had all my ideas in my head."
The chance for a salute to the crowd or any other reaction went out of the window as Watson was engaged in a desperately tight finish against fellow 5lb claimer Ger O'Neill, who was aboard Justanotherbottle, prevailing by a short head.
It could have all been so different, as Watson was originally down to ride favourite Foxtrot Lady, but instead rode his first winner for Hugo Palmer.
"I was down to ride Foxtrot Lady in this race but my agent, Tony Hind, said it would be worth riding Gifted Master and reckoned he had a great shout, so massive credit to him," Watson added.
"I'm so grateful to have a ride on such a talented horse for a great owner and trainer. He's such a tough horse."
Foxtrot Lady is trained by Watson's boss Andrew Balding, who launched the careers of several other members of the weighing room, and there was a congratulatory pat on the shoulder of Watson from his boss as he returned on the crest of a wave.
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