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Former Cambridge United academy footballer Christian Howarth wins Hands and Heels Apprentice prize

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A Newmarket teenager, who once haboured dreams of becoming a top-flight footballer, is now excelling as a jockey.

Nineteen-year-old Christian Howarth, who hadn’t sat on a racehorse until he was 16, landed the 2021/22 Hands and Heels Apprentice series on Saturday.

The son of Tony Howarth, assistant to Newmarket trainer Saeed bin Suroor, Christian certainly has racing in his blood but it was football that was the young man’s first love.

As a youngster he played regularly for Newmarket Town’s youth sides, and for Moulton Panthers, quickly building a reputation as a goalscorer. “I was football mad then,” he said.

Hands and Heels series winner Christian Howarth with his trophy. Picture: Mark Westley
Hands and Heels series winner Christian Howarth with his trophy. Picture: Mark Westley

“I was very quick and I think one of the top goalscorers in Suffolk.” And his talents on the ball did not go unnoticed. He was spotted by Cambridge United and was on the U’s books from the age of 12. But at 16 he got the call all young hopefuls dreaded, the club had decided to release him. “At 16 I was about seven stone and the club thought I was just too small,” Howarth said.

Although he came from a racing background, and had been going to Dubai every year, since he was four, with his parents as they travelled to the UAE for the winter racing season with Godolphin, Howarth had never really shown any interest in riding.

But he decided to give it a go and enrolled at the British Racing School in Newmarket where he completed the 14-week course.

From there he headed down the Snailwell Road to trainer Marco Botti’s yard where he is currently an apprentice. As well as riding for his boss he has picked up plenty of outside rides for the likes of Ed Dunlop, William Haggas, Mark Johnston, and Henry Spiller, and to date has ridden a total of 15 winners.

He won the race for the Hands and Heels title, which was designed to teach jockeys how to ride out with hands and heels without resorting to the whip, with 56 points.

“It’s great to have won the series and I looking forward to the new season and hoping to ride plenty more winners,” he said.