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British Champions Day: William Buick set to take deserved champion jockey crown after 2021 heartbreak

William Buick was narrowly denied by Oisin Murphy in last year's champion jockey battle; he has blitzed his rivals this year, sitting over 60 winners clear at the top of the standings; watch every race on British Champions Day this Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing

William Buick will be crowned champion jockey at Ascot on Saturday
Image: William Buick is set to be crowned champion jockey at Ascot on Saturday

It will be a sweet moment on Saturday at Ascot for William Buick, who looks set to finally get his hands on the Jockeys’ Championship trophy.

Buick takes an unassailable lead of over 60 winners into the final week of the season, moving over the 150 mark with success on Pogo last Friday at Newmarket.

The 34-year-old Norwegian rider secured 151 victories last season, but it was not enough to take the title, missing out by two in controversial circumstances to Oisin Murphy, who was subsequently suspended for 14-months for breaking Covid protocol and misleading the British Horseracing Authority.

Oisin Murphy holds the trophy after being crowned champion jockey for 2021
Image: Oisin Murphy holds the trophy after being crowned champion jockey for 2021

Murphy would hand in his licence shortly after to focus on his rehabilitation after a string of failed breath tests, but it was suggested in some quarters that the Irish jockey should relinquish his title to Buick.

Discussing last season's championship battle, Buick admitted it was hard to take such a narrow defeat, and added that the heartbreak of that loss galvanised him to go one better this time around.

'How I'll celebrate? I can't tell you that!'

"I went out last year to be champion jockey so to go down by one or two in the end, you are thinking I don't want to get into that situation again," Buick told Sky Sports Racing.

"My agent [Tony Hines] said we are going to have to go hard early - go as hard as we can for as long as we can.

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William Buick admitted his narrow defeat in last season's jockeys' championship motivated him to go one better in 2022. Watch our exclusive feature on Sky Sports Racing

"We kept the ball rolling - you can never predict for it to go how it did. We worked towards it and got all the support we needed.

"It's something that I've enjoyed - although it's hard work, I think I've thrived on it.

"It's something I've always wanted to do but I don't know how I'll react. How I'll celebrate? I can't tell you that!"

Buick's partnership with Charlie Appleby and Godolphin has been scarcely believable in recent years, with Group One and Classic success a regular theme of their relationship.

William Buick heads back into the weighing room to be assessed after getting a bump on the head for a horse in the stalls at Epsom
Image: William Buick and Charlie Appleby

Derby glory with Masar, King George success on Adayar and Breeders' Cup victory on Yibir stand out as some of the more recent highlights, but it has been something of a conveyor belt when it comes to Group level victories for the duo in the last decade.

"Charlie [Appleby] is amazing," he added. "Not just what he has achieved in this country but on a global scale is phenomenal and we have a great working relationship.

"Now, our sport is global and it's important our horses travel a lot. Charlie [Appleby] likes to travel his horses anywhere that he sees fit and I've enjoyed that aspect of it."

But as important as the victories at Royal Ascot and Group One Saturdays are, as the saying goes, doing it on a cold Tuesday night at Stoke (or should that be Wolverhampton?) is just as important and that has been key for Buick's title charge.

William Buick celebrates after Masar's victory in the 2018 Derby
Image: William Buick celebrates after Masar's victory in the 2018 Derby

'You are never entitled to be champion'

"You always need to balance it out," Buick added. "You need to be consistent but you always need to turn up. It's no good being a tired jockey on the big day because they are the days that matter.

"You need to first find out if you can take the workload and that is something that I felt I could do and feel like I'm doing, so two or three years ago I decided that this is something that might just work.

"A lot of things need to go right - you are never entitled to be champion, it's something you have to work for.

"The two-year-olds last year indicated that they were going to be nice three-year-olds."

Noble Style and William Buick land the Gimcrack Stakes at York
Image: Noble Style and William Buick land the Gimcrack Stakes at York

"It means a lot. When you start out as a young jockey, it's what you want to achieve. You want to win The Derby and become champion jockey."

Buick has not taken a traditional path to the top, although racing is in his blood, with his father Walter an eight-time Scandinavian champion jockey and his mother a dressage rider.

His UK career started with Ian and later Andrew Balding's yard at Kingsclere, and although he was supposed to return to Norway to continue his education, horses would soon take priority.

William Buick celebrates after riding Yibir to victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf race
Image: William Buick celebrates after riding Yibir to victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf race

'It was a one-way ticket!'

"When I went to Kingsclere to Andrew Balding's, I used to go over on my school holidays and I used to love it," he added.

"It was hard work and I used to get ran off with and fall off every day but I always used to get back up.

"I was so light and so weak at the time but obviously I was only young. I always hoped that once I left school I would go there.

"Once I left school, I was supposed to do one more year because I promised mom that I would do another year in Norway.

"Once I came to England at Park House, I was done! It was a one-way ticket."

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Watch our exclusive feature with champion jockey-elect William Buick all this week on Sky Sports Racing

It was 2007 when William rode his first Royal Ascot winner back as a 5lb apprentice on Dark Missile in the Wokingham Stakes, a moment that father Walter admitted brought a tear to his eye.

And 15 years later at the same track, he is expecting similarly proud scenes when his son walks up to collect his title that has been so long in the making.

"We're all very proud as a family. It's a great ride for me all along the way with William.

"We got him started on the right foot and it's just progressed from there and this would be the icing on the cake.

William Buick smiles for the cameras after winning the Irish 2000 Guineas
Image: William Buick smiles for the cameras after winning the Irish 2000 Guineas

"Obviously, I gave him lots of advice at the start. Not so much his riding but more about how he conducted himself and for me that was more important.

"We had a few barneys along the way early doors but he came good in the end.

"I'll never forget when he rode his first winner at Royal Ascot. He was still claiming 5lb at the time and I just happened to be there that day.

"I was interviewed at the BBC and I did shed a tear that day and had to hide it.

"Back at Ascot again, yes, I will shed a tear."

Native Trail ridden by jockey William Buick (right) on their way to winning the bet365 Craven Stakes
Image: Native Trail ridden by jockey William Buick (right) on their way to winning the bet365 Craven Stakes

Buick's remarkable 2022 season

The champion jockey-in-waiting had the unenvious choice of picking between two Godolphin heavyweights in the opening Classic of the season, the 2000 Guineas.

Unfortunately for Buick (and fortunately for fellow Godolphin rider James Doyle), he chose Champion 2-Y-O Native Trail who could only finish second behind the Charlie Appleby stablemate Coroebus, who quickened up smartly to take the prize at Newmarket.

Buick would get his Classic success on Native Trail three weeks later, when landing prohibitive odds of 2/5 in the Irish 2000 Guineas in workmanlike fashion.

Native Trail and William Buick celebrate after winning the Irish 2000 Guineas
Image: Native Trail and William Buick celebrate after winning the Irish 2000 Guineas

He also helped Appleby complete a remarkable 2000 Guineas hat-trick, winning the French version with international sensation Modern Games, who took the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf as a two-year-old.

The same horse also took third in the French Derby behind the impressive Vadeni, before claiming Canadian glory in the Group One Woodbine Mile last month.

Buick's Royal Ascot got off to the ideal start with another Group One success, this time onboard Coroebus in the St. James's Palace Stakes who fought off a string of rivals in the final furlong under a power-packed ride from the champion elect.

Coroebus and Maljoom clash in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot
Image: Coroebus and Maljoom clash in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot

Sadly, that would be the last time we saw Coroebus in the winner's enclosure, after he suffered a life-ending injury in the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp.

The Royal meeting proved fruitful for Buick, who had five winners on the week including outside rides on Saffron Beach in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes and rounding off the meeting with victory on the Willie Mullins-trained Stratum in the Queen Alexandra Stakes.

He was arguably a shade unlucky not to land the Leading Jockey title for the meeting, tying with Ryan Moore on five wins but falling short on countback with fewer second places.

Creative Force ridden by James Doyle (white hat) wins the Jersey Stakes
Image: Creative Force ridden by James Doyle (white hat) wins the Jersey Stakes

That included a second beaten a neck on Creative Force behind stablemate Naval Crown in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, a victory that would've been enough to take the leading rider.

Jane Chapple Hyam's Saffron Beach also proved a popular international winner later in the season, winning the Group One Prix Rothschild at Deauville.

It wasn't just the Group victories that have helped Buick to his title success, with a remarkable eight straight race wins between Newmarket on July 16 and Sandown on July 20.

Saffron Beach and William Buick after winning the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket.
Image: Saffron Beach and William Buick after winning the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket.

His purple patches proved to be a regular theme, rattling off another four-timer in September at Sandown as well as a stunning run of seven victories from ten rides at Goodwood in August.

The Norwegian rider bagged further Group wins with some exciting prospects for the future, with Lezoo taking the Group One Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket and the Gimcrack Stakes at the Ebor meeting with star Godolphin two-year-old Noble Style.

Watch British Champions Day this Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing.

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