Most teenagers are in a hurry and James Bowen is no exception.

He started riding as a professional jump jockey this season and is leading the conditional riders’ championship, winning major races and qualified to ride in the Grand National.

Not bad for a 16-year-old who is still too young to take his driving test.

Loading article content

Despite what the birth certificate may state, the attitude is more mature as he considers being hailed as the next AP McCoy. No pressure then.

“There’s been a lot of publicity and it’s a bit different to what it was six months ago,” Bowen said, with a heavy dose of understatement. “I’m dealing with it so far and keep myself in the spotlight for trainers to see me.”

Bowen will be back in the spotlight when he rides Jenkins in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury tomorrow but that appears to be his natural habitat.

Bloodlines are important and Bowen is well bred for the job. His parents, Peter and Karen, run a successful training yard in Pembrokeshire while his eldest brother, Mickey, is making his name training point-to-pointers and won the Foxhunters’ Chase at Aintree while other brother, Sean, was champion conditional three seasons ago.

A sportsman without a competitive streak is about as much use as a tone-deaf piano tuner but there is no trace of sibling rivalry and, when Sean beat James in a close finish at Sandown last Saturday, it would have been hard to tell who had won from the smiles from both as they pulled up.

“We don’t give anything away in a race, but we’re close,” Bowen said.

“We’ve never really had an argument and Sean has helped me a lot. We sit near to each other in the weighing room and I speak to him a lot about my rides.”

The advice might be to keep going as you are. Bowen is a graduate of the flourishing pony racing circuit, which has produced many future jockeys, with 90 winners in less than 150 rides and spent his 16th birthday riding two winners from five rides at a point-to-point for Mickey.

Bowen ended the season as the champion novice rider, with a record 30 winners, and then joined Nicky Henderson’s yard when he turned professional.

This should have been the opportunity for Bowen to chip away at the game’s coalface. Instead he has blasted his way through, starting by riding Raz de Maree to win the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow last month.

“It was brilliant to even get a ride in a race like that,” he said as the wide-eyed youth got a brief look in against the steely-eyed pro.

“Coming to the last I rode it like every other race – keep rowing away, keep the revs up – and it was just an amazing feeling to win. I grew up watching and I’m winning it.”

Bowen was back in that spotlight the next Saturday when he won the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton for Henderson and again seven days later at Ascot on Jenkins who is a changed character running in blinkers and allowed to race at the front.

Bowen will have a plan but the overall one is simple. “I try to treat every race the same,” he said. “Go out to win.”

Away from the track his main reading currently is the driving theory test. “I’m working on my theory now and need a few lessons and I’m planning to take the test in March if I can,” he said. “Hopefully I can pass first time.”

The driving licence may have to wait, but Bowen already has the driving ambition.