Donn's Articles » Shane Crosse

Shane Crosse

Shane Crosse watched the screen on Monday morning.  Refresh.  Refresh.  The list of entries for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes was there in front of him, State Of Rest’s name among them.  That was old news.  Wednesday’s feature race at Royal Ascot had been State Of Rest’s target for a while.  But the space on the screen beside the horse’s name where the jockey’s name goes remained blank. 


Before this week, Shane Crosse had had just two rides at Ascot, and he had never ridden on the round course.  At Royal Ascot last year, he went close in the Britannia Handicap over the straight mile, a 29-runner cavalry charge and he finished second on Liffey River, beaten a half a length.  He was dying for another go. 

He clicked Refresh again, and the screen danced in front of him.  State Of Rest, Jockey: Shane Crosse.

“I was delighted when I saw my name there,” says the rider now.  “To get such an opportunity in a great race like the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, on a horse like him.  You’d struggle to get a horse who is as quiet and as straightforward as State Of Rest.  He’s one in a hundred thousand I’d say.  All that he had achieved already.”

A Saratoga Derby, a Cox Plate and a Prix Ganay, three Group 1 races in three different countries, on three different continents.  And yet, State Of Rest was allowed go off at 5/1 on Wednesday in his bid for a fourth Group 1 win, only third best of the five runners according to the market.

Shane Crosse flew to Ascot on Tuesday morning.  He was due to ride Benaud for Joseph O’Brien and JP McManus in the final race on Tuesday, Benaud was ultimately a non-runner, but it was still good to get there early, get your bearings.

“I walked the track on Tuesday morning with Joseph and Declan (McDonogh) and Mikey (Sheehy),” he says.  “It’s brilliant to have Joseph on your side.  He has all that experience of riding at the top level.  The moment we set foot onto the track, he started talking, the subtleties of the track, where you want to be here, what you want to look out for there, and he didn’t stop talking until we left it.  By the end, I felt like I knew the track like the back of my hand.”

He didn’t know that Lord North had missed the break.  He was just concerned with his own horse, get him out and get him into his rhythm from early.

“It’s a downhill run from the stalls to the bend, and Joseph was happy that I would have to use up petrol down the hill to get my position.  Then conserve energy on the run up the hill, five furlongs out, four furlongs out.  I thought that the Japanese horse would take me on for the lead, but he didn’t, so I was able to go at my own pace.  I was always happy.”

It’s a relatively short home straight at Ascot, just two and a half furlongs, but it’s stiff.  Go for home too early, and you won’t get there.  When Crosse turned for home, he could hear the crowds.  He could see the green baize stretching out in front of him up to the winning line, but he resisted the urge to kick.  A Royal Ascot maiden, riding in just his third Royal Ascot race, and he had the poise and the confidence and the patience to wait.  He sat in front until he had left the two-furlong marker behind him.  Only then did he ask his horse for his effort.

“The only horse I really saw was Bay Bridge, when he was coming at me.  I just saw his nose.  We passed the half-furlong marker and I thought, my God we’re still a long way away!  I didn’t look again though, I just kept driving.”

When State Of Rest’s nose hit the line, he was still one horse-length in front of his closest pursuer.  It was a remarkably astute ride from a young rider who was riding over the course for the first time.  It is probable that he was on the best horse in the race on the day, but he rode him with optimal efficiency, he gave him a ride that maximised his chance of winning.  That’s what the best riders do.

“It was an unbelievable feeling.  Magic.  The crowds, the atmosphere.  And coming back in, under the tunnel, it was something else.  The presentation.  All of it.  It was unreal.”

A first Royal Ascot win for Shane Crosse as a rider, a first Royal Ascot win for Joseph O’Brien as a trainer.

“To do it for Joseph too, that was brilliant.  To repay the faith that he and the owners showed in me.  Joseph has been my role model for my whole career.”

Shane Crosse was 15 when he first went in to ride out at Joseph O’Brien’s for the summer holidays.  Prolific on the pony racing scene, he was champion apprentice in 2018 when he was 17, and he made his way through the ranks.

Famously, he missed out on the St Leger winning ride on Galileo Chrome in 2020 after testing positive for Covid-19.  It was gutting.  He was delighted for the horse, delighted for Joseph, delighted for the team, gutted for himself.  He was pragmatic about it though.  Mature head on young shoulders.  One of those things, he said at the time.  Hopefully there will be others.  And sure enough, less than a month later, he rode his first Group 1 winner when he kicked Pretty Gorgeous home in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.

Three more Group 1 wins later, and Shane Crosse is making his way all right.  It’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby weekend next weekend, and Joseph O’Brien has several entries in Saturday’s feature race, Buckaroo and Hannibal Barca among them.  A Royal Ascot winner safely in the bag, a Prince of Wales’s Stakes, another landmark in his career, and Shane Crosse is looking forward again.


© The Sunday Times, 19th June 2022