Brazilian-born jockey Silvestre De Sousa admits he has had to pinch himself after becoming champion flat jockey for the first time in his career.
De Sousa, who rides out of Newmarket, collected the winner’s prize of £25,000 at QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.
It capped an amazing rise to prominence for the 34-year-old who learned to ride in his homeland.
De Sousa said: “It’s a bit surreal really. I tried to put the idea of winning the title to the back of my mind while it was still in the balance but now that I have won it, it feels great.
“I always believed I had the ability to win the championship, and thanks to the owners and trainers who have supported me this season I’ve proved I can.”
De Sousa, who is regarded as one of the hardest working riders in the weighing room, is one of only two jockeys to have ridden in more than 700 races this season.
And has endeavours have been rewarded, translating into an incredible 132 winners at an impressive strike rate of 18 per cent and with a profit of £47.76 (from £1 level-stakes) after riding a string of big-priced winners throughout the current campaign.
None were more memorable than 50-1 shot Arabian Queen’s shock victory over Golden Horn in the Juddmonte International.
“It’s quite an achievement in any jockey’s career but especially when you’re a foreigner who has come from a different country,” said De Sousa, who parted company with Godolphin a year ago before going freelance.
He added: “It’s just a nice position to be in. It’s been a hard season, but it means a lot to me.
“I rode for two years in Brazil and that’s where it started.
“I’ve been here for 10 years now, it was hard in the beginning to break in, but I’ve had a lot of support.
“I never thought of anything like this.
“When I first came to Europe I just wanted to have one ride, to get a feel of the turf, and today – look where I am.
“It’s been a great season. My agent Shelley Dwyer has done a great job and I’d like to thank everyone.”
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