Promising Conditional Bastyan, a young jockey going places quickly
Teenage jockey, Mitchell Bastyan (Mitch) is fast earning a reputation as one of the most promising conditional riders in the weighing room. He has been receiving many plaudits from colleagues and in the racing press. Highly influential journalist and punter, Richard Birch recently selected him as one to follow in his ‘Under the Radar’ series in the Racing Post.
Mitch rode 23 winners in 2017/18 and sits second in the Stobart Conditional Jockeys Championship table behind James Bowen. He has a better strike-rate than Bowen and has amassed over £220,000 in prizemoney. He also rode his first double at Ayr in September. His 7lb claim has quickly been reduced to 5lb but he is still fantastic value and increasingly more trainers are taking advantage of this.
Mitch, a relatively late starter in the racing industry at 14, started out as an amateur with Somerset trainer Simon Hodgson’s backing. Hodgson retired from the racing ranks after 35 years in the sport in May this year, citing financial difficulties and a lack of winners. However, Bastyan has continued to go from strength to strength.
“I owe Simon everything. He supported me when I was starting out as an amateur and I learned all the basics from him. I would not be in this position without his support.”
Mitch Bastyan, Left, aboard Buckhorn Timothy for Collin Tizzard at WIncanton.
Whilst an amateur, Mitch started riding for Jack Barber, Britain’s Britain’s champion point-to-point handler. He was riding plenty of winners and was soon noticed by Herefordshire trainer, Kerry Lee. He joined the yard as an amateur jockey. He was soon on the move again to Brian Barr’s North Dorset stables. It would prove to be a career defining decision.
“I took out my conditional licence whilst based with Brian, I was very nervous on my first ride under rules.”
Mitch made the start to a professional career that every young rider dreams he will make. He partnered Veauce De Sivola to victory on his debut ride under rules at Lingfield in March for Barr.
“He is a slow horse but loved the ground. Everything was perfect for him.”
That low grade staying handicap chase was worth just £4,431 to the winner but as Mitch says every winner is ‘massive to me’. He was back in the winners’ enclosure just three days later, riding an unconsidered 50/1 shot, General Girling, for his old boss Hodgson. A total of three winners from his first seven rides would have raised several eyebrows within the training ranks. Vale of Glamorgan based Evan Williams was first to make the approach.
“It was whilst I was at Brian Barr’s that the boss rang me up and said he was looking for a new lad. I spoke to his stable jockey Adam Wedge about the role. I spoke to Brian and he encouraged me to take it.”
Of the 23 winners, he has ridden so far in the 2017/18 National Hunt season Williams has supplied 12 including high profile winners on stable star Court Minstrel at Chepstow and On Tour in a big handicap chase at Aintree.
“Those two winners for the boss was huge for me. A big winner on a Saturday is why I work so hard and get up early every morning. Court Minstrel has always been a very good horse and to get the ride on him was amazing really.”
He has also ridden 3 winners for the powerful Somerset yard of Colin Tizzard. Tizzard has supplied many of last season’s champion conditional jockey Harry Cobden’s winners this season. Mitch attended the British racing School with Cobden in 2014. I asked his weighing room colleague what sets Bastyan apart:
“Mitch is a great guy. He is improving quickly and rides very well. He could be very good in time. He has great potential,” Cobden added.
He may be in only his second season as a professional jockey and there is a long way to go. Serious injuries are a day-to-day occurrence for these bravest of sportsmen. However, on the evidence so far, the future looks bright indeed for Mitchell Bastyan.
Written by Andrew Hollis.