Racing: Roberts reaches exclusive rank

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MICHAEL ROBERTS, the busiest jockey ever, yesterday proved himself one of the most consistently successful when Jasoorah provided his 200th winner of the season at Chester.

The South African, who has already ridden more racehorses this year than any man before him, over 1,000 of them, becomes the fourth member of the 200 club after Fred Archer, Tommy Loates, Sir Gordon Richards and Pat Eddery.

As Jasoorah crossed the line Roberts transmitted his joy and relief (earlier this week he ended his longest losing sequence of the season of 30) with wide, swishing pats on the filly's neck.

'That's fantastic,' he said. 'When I passed the post I said to myself 'thank the Lord'. This last week has been so frustrating but I was confident about this filly and I'm delighted I have done it on one of my guv'nor's horses.'

The 'guv'nor' is Alec Stewart, who was instrumental in bringing Roberts to Britain, but who has been unable to provide his stable jockey with his usual number of winners this campaign.

'It's a pity that we couldn't contribute more to his total this season, but we lost more or less two months to the virus,' Stewart said. 'But I'm just delighted that he's done it on one of our horses. He works so hard, and has done ever since he first came here, that everything that has come his way has been just desserts.'

The statistics confirm Roberts's endeavour. He has ridden in about 200 more races this season (earning close to pounds 55,000 in riding fees alone) than the next busiest jockey, Willie Carson, and 300 more than his championship rival, Pat Eddery, who is about to relinquish his title for the first time in five years to Roberts.

In addition, Eddery's personal record of 209 victories is now on the South African's hit-list. 'I'll now try to beat Pat's 209, but for the moment it's just great to reach this target,' he said. 'I'm sure the wife will have some bubbly on ice waiting for me when I get home but I won't go too mad because I'm riding tomorrow.' Roberts and his wife, Verna, have lived in Britain for seven years and announced last week they are to apply for British citizenship.

Roberts believes Jasoorah may provide more champagne days, most immediately in the November Handicap at Doncaster next month. 'She has an outstanding chance in the November Handicap, because she loves this ground and is a fresh filly,' he said.

William Hill were not about to dispute this analysis and made Jasoorah the 8-1 favourite for the race. They then go 12-1 Larrikin & Texan Tycoon, 14-1 Turgenev, 16-1 Daru, 20-1 Discord, Halkopous, Quick Ransom & Whitechapel.

Jasoorah's prospects took on an even better hue when Stewart revealed he thought of her as a horse who could make a mark in conditions events. 'There is just a chance I could re-route her to a Listed event at Newmarket,' he said, 'but the Doncaster race will probably be her next target.'

The other horse on the move in the ante-post lists yesterday was Reg Akehurst's Millsolin, who is now the 3-1 favourite (from 6-1) with Ladbrokes for the Autumn Handicap at Newmarket in nine days' time. His nearest rival in the market is another of Stewart's charges, Jdaayel, at 6-1, followed by 8-1 Mellottie, 10-1 Rambo's Hall, 12-1 bar.

(Photograph omitted)