Brazilian-born jockey Silvestre De Sousa was a latecomer to horse racing but, in 2000, at the age of 20, was Champion Apprentice in his native country just three years after sitting on a horse for the first time. De Sousa left Brazil in 2004 and, having initially struggled to establish himself in the British Isles, went very close to winning his first jockeys’ title in 2011, eventually losing out 165-161 to Paul Hanagan.
Shortly afterwards, he became a retained jockey with Goldolphin, the powerful stable operated by Sheikh Mohammed, but despite finishing second in the jockeys’ table in 2012, and third in 2013, by 2014 had drifted away from his main employers for the previous two years. So much so, in fact, that in the Derby that year he rode 125/1 outsider Our Channel, trained by William Haggas, against better-fancied Godolphin rivals.
In any event, despite not being retained by a major yard, and not even being quoted in the betting for the jockeys’ championship at the start of the season, in 2015, De Sousa was Champion Jockey for the first time, with 132 winners. His domestic total included just one Group 1 winner, Arabian Queen, trained by David Elsworth, in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York, but his victory was memorable because the horse he beat was the hitherto unbeaten Golden Horn, winner of the Derby and the Coral-Eclipse Stakes and, subsequently, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
De Sousa lost out on the jockeys’ title, again, in 2016, after Jim Crowley made a remarkable charge in August and September to beat him by 16 winners. However, in 2017, by mid-summer De Sousa was already 19 winners clear of his rivals – including six in one day on June 16 – and was a runaway winner of his second jockeys’ title with 143 winners. His most prestigious winner that season was another trained by David Elsworth, Desert Skyline, in the Doncaster Cup, but he rode plenty more high-profile winners, including Withhold in the Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket.
After a slow start, De Sousa retained his title in 2018, making it three in four years, with 148 winners. Major domestic successes included Ostillo, trained by Simon Crisford – formerly racing manager to Sheikh Mohammed – in the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot, Pretty Pollyana, trained by Michael Bell, in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket and Dark Vision, trained by Mark Johnston, in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.