When it comes to horses, thoroughbred racing is all about bloodlines but lineage can be just as important to the human athletes involved in the sport and Newmarket-based champion apprentice David Egan can boast a right royal racing pedigree.
His dad is Group 1 winning jockey, John Egan, and mum is Irish Grand National winning trainer, now Godolphin’s stud and and stable staff award ambassador in Ireland, Sandra Hughes.
And it doesn’t stop there. Egan’s grandfather is the late Dessie Hughes, the legendary Irish National Hunt jockey turned racehorse trainer who tasted victory in both roles in Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle and his uncle is former champion jockey now trainer Richard Hughes.
And the articulate teenager is already proving he is worthy of his heritage with the potential to be a bit more than just a chip off the old block.
After riding seven winners in 2016, Egan took centre stage last season when he took the Stobart Apprentice Jockey Championship riding 53 winners, just one ahead of his closest rival Kieran Shoemark and joining an illustrious roll of honour, with previous winners of the title including Ryan Moore, Frankie Dettori and Paul Hanagan. As well as £5,000 in prize money he also lifted the prestigious Tom O’Ryan trophy inaugurated in 2016 in honour of the late former jockey and racing journalist who was a huge supporter of young up and coming riders.
And the moment he received the trophy at Catterick last October was made extra special by the fact that proud dad John was there to share his son’s delight.
As far as young Egan is concerned, it’s dad who tops the list of those who have been most influential in helping to shape his career to date.
“His influence has been huge,” he said, “and I certainly don’t think I would be where I am today without him.”
“He is my harshest critic but he gives me good advice. Racing is a very hard game but if you work hard, and put your mind to it, it will pay off.
“Dad has always stressed how competitive it is and that no-one will give you an inch. If I do something wrong he will tell me straightaway.”
The pair currently share an apartment overlooking Warren Hill in Newmarket, where they not only go through their rides together, but also share the culinary chores and the driving to race meetings.
Both have been on busmen’s holidays over the winter, Egan senior riding in Dubai and the Far East, while Egan Junior has been in colder climes at Laurel Park in Maryland, where he also spent three months in 2016 with Jose Corrales the Panamanian-born former jockey, now trainer, who is an old friend of his father’s.
“I have learned a lot from him about my style and timing,” said Egan, whose early days were spent riding ponies on the pony racing circuit in Ireland where he rode one winner but caught the racing bug.
It was his grandfather who first put him up on racehorses.
His ambition to ride on the flat led him to move to Newmarket and at 16 completed a four week course at the British Racing School from where he joined leading town trainer Roger Varian for whom he now works full time.
“Mr Varian has got a lot of horses so I am hoping to pick up rides this season but with Andrea Atzeni the retained jockey and Harry Bentley and Jack Mitchell also in the yard I will have to work hard,” said Egan.
The 18 year old has set himself a target of riding a listed or Group three winner this season.
“Every apprentice has to prove themselves and I have to do that if I am going to succeed and emulate my dad by riding Group 1 winners,” said Egan.
“And things will get tougher when I lose my claim. I’ve got 26 winners to go.
“My dad rode his first Royal Ascot winner on the day I was born and if I can one day ride a Royal Ascot winner and be half the jockey he is I will be happy.”