Jock William Humphrey posts first US win
Richard Burnsworth’s 6-year-old gelding Zorb sprung a 9-1 upset in Thursday’s second race at Laurel Park, rolling home by 4 ¼ lengths to give English jockey William Humphrey his first victory in the United States.
Humphrey, 20, who rides with a seven-pound weight allowance, had been winless in his first 11 stateside mounts, including 0-for-7 this year. Zorb ($20.20), a son of 2013 Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Orb trained by Anthony Farrior, was his fifth mount since arriving in Maryland.
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“I’m stuck for words, to be honest with you. I’ve gone a long time without a winner, even back in England,” Humphrey said. “It’s nice to blow the cobwebs off.”
Humphrey positioned Zorb in the clear two wide pressing favored pacesetter The Cairo Kid, who went the opening quarter-mile in 22.89 seconds and a half in 46.15. The Cairo Kid straightened for home with a three-length advantage but was unable to withstand the late rush of Zorb, who moved to even terms at the eighth pole and drew clear to win in 1:05.58 over a fast main track.
“I was actually happy with where I was. When I just started to give him a squeeze, I felt like I’ve actually got a lot of horse underneath me,” Humphrey said. “I knew that he had been running further than this, so I was confident that he would stick out the distance well. He ran through the line really strongly for me.”
Humphrey worked for trainers Simon and Ed Crisford at Gainsborough Stables in Newmarket, eventually becoming their apprentice. His first win came in his 10th professional mount in December 2020 aboard a horse named Blue Whisper – one of just two flat horses trained by his mother, Sarah, at her West Wratting base where she has mostly steeplechase runners.
It was Group 1-winning jockey Aidan Coleman, who had been riding for his mother, who encouraged Humphrey to pursue a career as a jockey. Humphrey made his U.S. debut Dec. 3, 2021 at Tampa Bay Downs, where he was galloping horses for trainer and countryman Graham Motion.
Humphrey had three more mounts last December and rode three more races in January before heading north with Motion’s string. He made his Maryland debut running sixth with Confusion Baby Boy April 2 at Laurel.
“I’d always loved American racing, even when I was back in England. To be honest with you, I was finding it hard in England and I went over to Tampa and was galloping for Graham Motion, who has just been an unbelievable supporter,” Humphrey said. “He kindly gave me a few rides there and I just caught the bug and loved it. It was a big decision to stay, but I’m absolutely loving it and excited for the future.”
Humphrey continues to spend mornings working for Motion at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. Represented by agent Simon Purdy, he had one other mount on Thursday’s card, finishing off the board with Lola Flo in Race 7. He is named in one race Friday and two races on Saturday’s Spring Stakes Spectacular program, including the Motion-trained Mrs. Postman in Race 5, a maiden special weight scheduled for Laurel’s turf course.
“When Graham and his team moved from Tampa to Fair Hill, I went up and started galloping horses there,” Humphrey said. “It’s a bit colder [than Tampa], but I love it. It’s my first time being in America, and I just can’t believe how friendly everyone is and how supportive. Everyone really seems to want you to do well.”