Name: Silvestre De Sousa
Job title: Jockey
Silvestre de Sousa was announced as a Godolphin retained rider on February 22, 2012, following an outstanding 2011 British jockeys’ championship which saw him finish a close second to Paul Hanagan.
His Godolphin appointment crowned a remarkable journey for the Brazilian, who was born in the sprawling metropolis of Sao Paulo on December 31, 1980, and grew up as one of 10 children on his parents’ farm.
The family bred a handful of thoroughbreds and Silvestre de Sousa spent his childhood helping out on the smallholding, rounding up cattle on horseback. But he displayed little desire to try making a career out of riding and left to work at his brother’s furniture factory at the age of 16.
It was only after a meeting with Fausto Durso, a jockey who suggested his size and light frame made him ideally suited to race riding that Silvestre de Sousa decided to try his luck as a professional rider.
He joined the apprentices’ school at Sao Paolo that year, learning the basics of riding racehorses before becoming attached to the stable of the leading local trainer.
Silvestre de Sousa finished third on his first ride at Cidade Jardim Racecourse and did not have to wait long to taste success as he concluded his first full season as Brazil’s champion apprentice. He racked up the winners needed to lose his claim in the space of 16 months.
However, this bright start to his riding career was interrupted when he broke an arm in a fall, forcing the fledgling jockey to spend over six months on the sidelines.
After struggling to make a comeback in Brazil, Silvestre de Sousa took the bold decision to relocate to Ireland in 2003 to work for trainer Dermot Weld in County Kildare.
It proved difficult for him in a different continent with an unfamiliar language and the rider grew homesick for his homeland.
A brief spell in Dubai with trainer Dhruba Selvaratnam generated seven rides in the 2004/2005 season and offered some respite, although it was not easy on his return to Ireland, receiving only three racecourse mounts in the six months he had a licence there. He rode a lot of work and broke in young horses during his two-year stint with Dermot Weld.
Frustrated by a lack of race riding opportunities, Silvestre de Sousa was on the verge of returning to Brazil or going to Argentina in 2005 when a chance meeting with one of David Nicholls’ stable staff at the Curragh saw his career take an upward turn.
The lad recommended Silvestre de Sousa to David Nicholls and the Brazilian travelled over to the trainer’s yard south of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, UK, soon afterwards. The jockey made his British debut when coming home 11th on board Four Amigos in a Wolverhampton handicap on November 12, 2005.
It did not take long for Silvestre de Sousa’s prowess in the saddle to shine through and, after eight more rides, he recorded his first British winner at Southwell on January 1, 2006, when Sonic Anthem took an apprentices’ maiden by 16 lengths - a race in which his future wife Victoria Behan finished third. Victoria Behan enjoyed 13 winners, headed by Peace Offering’s victory in the Gosforth Park Cup at Newcastle in 2006, and the couple have a son, Ryan, who was born in 2007.
Silvestre de Sousa ended 2006 with 27 British winners to his name, the highlight being the victory of Danum Dancer in the valuable Listed Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy.
He became the first Brazilian to ride in a British Classic when partnering the same Neville Bycroft-trained colt in the following year’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and gained 21 British successes in 2007.
Silvestre de Sousa spent the 2007/2008 winter riding in India, with the highlight of 28 victories in the country being success on Vijayraaj in the Golconda 2,000 Guineas at Hyderabad.
He returned to India the following winter and partnered Antonios to victory in the 2009 McDowell Signature Indian Derby at Mumbai. The jockey was used by a variety of trainers in the UK and his reputation continued to grow.
His career stepped up another gear when he started riding for Middleham handler Mark Johnston, who provided him with a decent success when H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Eastern Aria captured a heritage handicap at Beverley in August, 2009.
Silvestre de Sousa enjoyed another successful campaign in 2010 as he continued to catch the eye with his ability in the saddle, gaining 100 British victories. He also made his debut for Godolphin on November 2, 2010, coming home third on Grand Duchy in a nursery at Catterick.
The 2011 British turf season, following a fourth winter in India, saw the jockey emerge as a major contender for championship honours. A double at Royal Ascot included a first Pattern success on Namibian in the Group Three Queen’s Vase, while Fox Hunt landed the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap at the same meeting.
Both horses gave the jockey further big-race glory as Namibian scored in the Group Three Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, while Fox Hunt captured the Group Three Deutsches St Leger at Dortmund, Germany, in September before going on to finish an excellent seventh under Silvestre de Sousa in the Group One Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington, Australia, in November.
His first success for Godolphin came on October 12, 2011, with Kinglet gaining an emphatic victory in a conditions race at Kempton Park, while the same course also provided the jockey with an initial Listed victory in the famous blue silks when Prince Bishop took the Floodlit Stakes the following month.
He ended the 2011 British turf season with 161 winners to his name, just four behind reigning champion Paul Hanagan after the pair battled hard for the jockeys’ championship.
Silvestre de Sousa was invited to ride for Godolphin during the 2012 Dubai World Cup Carnival and he wasted little time in entering the Meydan winner’s enclosure on January 12 when Songcraft won on the jockey’s first ride of the year for the international stable.
His initial Group victory for Godolphin came on Sandagiyr, who gamely took the Group Three Firebreak Stakes at Meydan in February, 2012.
The rider partnered his first European Group One winner at Capannelle Racecourse, Italy, in November, 2012, when Hunter’s Light captured the 10-furlong Premio Roma GBI Racing.
He also rode Hunter’s Light to Group One glory in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three Sponsored By Emirates Airline – Godolphin’s 200th Group One success – at Meydan, Dubai in March, 2013.
Dubai World Cup night 2013 was memorable for the jockey as he partnered the remarkable mare Sajjhaa to success in the Group One Dubai Duty Free Sponsored By Dubai Duty Free. He also gained a first leading jockey title at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.
Silvestre de Sousa recorded his first British Group One on board Farhh in the JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May, 2013, and partnered the five-year-old to another famous victory in the Group One QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot next time out in October of the same year.
He enjoyed another superb Dubai World Cup Carnival in 2014, taking a second successive leading jockey title and capturing the world’s richest race, the US$10-million Dubai World Cup, for the first time on African Story, who scored decisively from Mukhadram.
Silvestre De Sousa Facts & Figures (2010-2014)
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