Better known by many punters simply as “Choc”, Robert Thornton is among the finest riders in the world and is sure to feature in the Cheltenham Top Jockey betting markets.
Although his reputation isn’t really known outside racing, that’s more to do with him being a shy, reserved character in front of the media, rather than a jockey who isn’t top-class.
In terms of consistency and a safe pair of hands, there are no better riders than Thornton. He is a great all-rounder and does every art of being a jockey very well, without having the flashy perks that maybe a Ruby Walsh or a Barry Geraghty possess.
Riding younger, inexperienced horses, is what Thornton does best.
He is known to have very soft hands and is the perfect pilot for a younger horse that may need teaching and learn about jumping hurdling.
It is therefore no surprise to see that most of Thornton’s success at the Cheltenham Festival has come in the novice hurdles such as the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the Triumph Hurdle.
He mainly rides for Alan King, and is contracted to the stables at Banbury Castle. King is also known as a bit of a master with juvenile hurdlers and it’s a combination that all punters should respect when planning a betting angle on a particular novice hurdle event.
Since Thornton’s first Cheltenham Festival win in 2006 aboard My Way De Solzen in the World Hurdle, he has gone onto register another 15 winners in six seasons, taking his tally to 16 in total.
He won the top-jockey prize in 2007 where he partnered four horses to victory over the four days of action.
One day stands out when any punters thinks of the best Thornton rides at the Festival and that is the 2008 opening day, where the talented jockey rode a big-race double by winning both the Supreme Novices Hurdle and Champion Hurdle on the same day.
The Supreme Novices’ victory came on a spare ride for the JP McManus-owned Captain Cee Bee, and gave Irish trainer Edward Harty his first Festival winner, whilst Katchit won the Champion Hurdle for his boss, King. That Katchit win especially was top-draw.
The horse in question was only about as big as a pony and you would never thought he would have the heart to make a top-class racehorse, but Thornton brought the best of the little horse to win twice at the Festival in the Triumph Hurdle and Champion.
Of his rides to look out for in 2013, the one that could be a player at Cheltenham is Balder Success, who looks a well handicapped sort and could partake in one of the big handicap hurdles such as the County Hurdle.
With Thornton having such a high-profile job working for King, and averaging in the past six years, nearly three wins per Cheltenham Festival, he looks, if King’s string are firing on all cylinders, to have a great outside chance of claiming the top jockey award that he won in 2007.
Walsh and Geraghty lead the market at 7/4 apiece with Bet365, and that’s fair enough due to their book of fantastic ride from their respective trainers, but at 25/1 with the same firm, Thornton has a chance of riding them close.
He is bound to get some very good rides in the big handicap races, but the real make or break for Thornton is how he does in the juvenile department as King is likely to have a strong hand in both the Triumph Hurdle and Fred Winter Handicap.
If he wins one of those, confidence will be high and he could just throw down a challenge to the big boys at a working-man’s price.