Daniel Muscutt, son of seasoned horseman and Brett Crawford’s KZN assistant trainer Peter Muscutt, is in South Africa for a busman’s holiday and is carded to appear at Scottsville on Sunday, 14 January 2018 with 3 rides for Brett Crawford and one for the Moore stable.
Daniel, who is based in Newmarket and rides for trainers James Fanshawe and Marco Botti, rode 45 winners for last season (44 in the UK and 1 in Dubai), including two Listed races from 428 opportunities, giving him a very respectable 10% win strike rate. He also had his first Group One ride, partnering the Botti-trained Fanciful Angel to a half a length second in the 2017 Arlington Million behind Beach Patrol.
Twenty-two year old Daniel grew up in West Wales. However, with the racing genes running strongly through his veins, there was never any question that he would end up as a jockey. “I didn’t think I was ever going to do anything else. I had the bug from day one, really,” he says.
Daniel served his time as an apprentice with Andrew Balding at Kingsclere, which he says is renowned as being one of the best places to serve your apprenticeship in the UK. “I served two and a half seasons with him, which was fantastic and there were a lot of good jockeys attached to the yard at the time.”
An opportunity to spend a stint in Dubai one winter, led to a conversation with trainer Marco Botti, who invited Daniel to join his stable back in England. “It seemed the most logical step to further my career, so I served the remainder of my apprenticeship with him in Newmarket. During that time I made some good connections, including James Fanshawe in particular, and through hard work and many miles on the road, luckily came out of my apprenticeship with two top stables to back me up in the UK.”
Daniel rode out his claim in the middle of 2016, so 2017 was his first season as a fully fledged rider. It got off to a good start, thanks largely to a horse called Fanciful Angel. “I’d ridden the horse in the UK in his prep run before the Dubai Carnival season and I was lucky enough that the owners and Marco kept me on him in Dubai. Luckily I had some experience from before and he blitzed them in one of the opening nights of the Carnival, so that was pretty special.” Having struck up a good partnership with the son of Dark Angel, Daniel stayed with him on his return to the UK. “Then the owners took a punt and tried him in the Arlington Million just on the off chance.” Daniel got to go along for the ride.
“He’s a horse that was always tricky at home. In England he was quite headstrong and not always the best in the stalls. He was his own worst enemy sometimes,” he muses. “But his form always seemed to improve when he stepped off a plane and we finished second to Beach Patrol in Chicago. It was my first ride in a Grade 1 and I’d never ridden in America either – it was pretty special. I was riding against Ryan Moore, Frankie, William Buick, the Ortiz brothers, etc and to go and run second, on the outsider of the field as well – he’s been a big help to my career.”
On the strength of the Arlington Million performance, the horse was purchased by the Chad Brown stable. He finished 2nd in the Gr1 Joe Hirsch and was then tried in the 2017 Breeders Cup Turf, finishing 8 lengths off Talismanic, before dying in a freak stalls accident in mid-December. It was a blow for the young rider who had a soft spot for the horse and had hoped to offer him a retirement home in Wales. “You need horses to like that to put you on the map as a young rider. I had a lot to do with him from day one so I’ll always owe him a lot.”
Daniel has ridden in South Africa before, having spent a month in Cape Town with Brett Crawford and Stephen Page in 2012 and says he’s been itching to come back for another working visit.
“It’s the UK’s off season now. There is still all-weather racing going on, but it’s pretty quiet and unless you’re attached to a specific, all-weather specialist trainer, there are not many rides about. I didn’t have a horse to go back to ride in Dubai this year and as I’d helped Brett in Newmarket with Whisky Baron last year and with my dad coming back here and doing really well last July and then Brett’s new satellite venture, everything slotted into place. It seemed a good opportunity for me to come out here, firstly to spend some quality time with Dad, which I don’t get to do as much as I’d like and also to get a bit of sun,” he smiles.
Daniel follows local racing as much as he can and the bigger meetings in particular. “I really enjoyed my time in Cape Town and made loads of good friends in the jockey room while I was down here. It’s good to come back and riding is a good way to keep myself busy as well, so it’s a bit of a holiday and a bit of fun, but I’m keeping my head in the game, learning a bit more and getting more experience.”
Daniel got to work Whisky Baron during his stint at Abington Place in Newmarket and says the 2017 Met winner did really well considering the rigours of the export process. “In terms of getting him ready, they were always under pressure from a time point of view, but he ran a really good race at his first start in the UK. It was a competitive field and the ground had gone completely against him, but he showed his class on the gallops and in the race as well. It’s a shame he had a bit of a set-back, but they’ve regrouped and as far as I know, he’s now doing well in Dubai.”
It also afforded him the opportunity to meet Whisky Baron’s owners, the Kieswetter family, as well as Brian Finch, whose silks he’ll be wearing in race 4 on Sunday.
Daniel has not ridden at Scottsville before, but has been keeping busy on the gallops and has swung a leg over all his carded rides during the week. “Dad’s kept me nice and busy. I flew in on Monday and it was straight to track work on Tuesday morning. I’ve been thriving off working so closely at track work with Dad, he’s a master at what he does and it’s great to be able to discuss the horses, their routines and also help him out with my feedback and assessments of the horses.” The pair obviously have a close relationship and Daniel acknowledges, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Quizzed about his rides, he makes his first two engagements (race 1 – Falkland and race 3 – Seattle Silva) his most lively chances on the day. “Falkland trialled very well, although obviously you don’t know what he’ll make of his first day of races. But if he can step forward from that, he should put up a good run.” However, he makes the Moore stable runner the one to beat.
Daniel heads home on 1 February, but says he’s keen to make the most of his visit and is happy to take any opportunities that come his way, including riding in other centres if there is interest. “I’d like a chance to get down to Cape Town, but wherever the rides are, I’ll go. I’m open to offers, anyway,” he smiles. Daniel rides at 56kgs and can be contacted via Peter Muscutt for any riding engagements.