HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Traveling abroad to ride races is nothing new for Sean Levey, a Group 1 winner in both England and France. But this winter, the acclaimed British jockey has embarked on a new journey that has brought him to America for the first time.

First-call rider for the powerful Richard Hannon stable in England, the 35-year-old Levey will be based through February at Gulfstream Park.

Levey made his U.S. debut in a first conditioned, $25,000 optional claiming on Dec. 9, finishing 11th aboard 3-year-old gelding Harrington and rode 2-year-old gelding Simsoum to a seventh-place finish in a maiden special weight on Dec. 10, each over Gulfstream’s new turf course. Both horses are trained by Nader Moubarak, the son of Grade 1-winning trainer Mohamed Moubarak.

“There’s no doubt it’s very different from what I’m accustomed to. But at the same time, it was nice to get a couple of rides and get a look at the course,” Levey said. “I’m looking forward to picking up some more mounts.”

Born in the small Southern African country of Swaziland, now called Eswatini, Levey moved to Ireland as a teenager and spent six years with trainer Aidan O’Brien before going to England in 2011. In 2018 he won the 1,000 Guineas on Billesdon Brook, at 66-1 still the highest-priced winner of the race first run in 1814.

Levey won two more Group 1 races in 2019, the Sun Chariot on Billesdon Brook and Queen Elizabeth at Royal Ascot aboard King of Change. Other Group 1 wins have come with Snow Lantern in the 2021 Falmouth at Newmarket; Aristria in the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville; and top 2-year-old Rosallion in this year’s Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp.

“No doubt, I had a very good year this year with some top horses that I’ll definitely be looking forward to getting up on again come the summer in England,” Levey said. “It’s down time in England at the moment and it’s nice to get away and keep riding, keep being competitive during the winter and hopefully that will help when I go back.”

Levey has been getting on horses in the morning for Barbados native Saffie Joseph Jr., who has won eight consecutive training titles at Gulfstream including back-to-back Championship Meets.

“I was lucky enough to meet Saffie in Barbados a few years ago, so I had that connection. He’s been throwing me out a few sets and I’ve been breezing for him through the weekends and whenever he’s been asking,” Levey said. “I’ve seen a lot of the track so far. I’ve obviously [just] raced on the turf so far but I’ve breezed on the Tapeta and breezed on the dirt, so I’m getting a good look at it all.”

Trainer Arnaud Delacour has named Levey to ride McLovin in Saturday’s $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, a two-mile turf test where he is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line behind defending champion Value Engineering. Levey is also named on 3-year-old filly Cerchi for trainer Ron Spatz in a Sunday maiden special weight scheduled for a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass.

“I’m here to obviously gain a bit of experience,” Levey said. “It was nice to be able to get away and gain some more experience and try and be competitive and pick up whatever rides I can. There’s no doubt this is a very competitive meet in America at the moment. It was nice to get the opportunity to come over and ride and challenge myself to do something different.”

The Championship Meet jockey colony is one of the deepest in the country, boasting Hall of Famers Javier Castellano and John Velazquez; Irad Ortiz Jr., the nation’s leader in wins and purse earnings, and his fellow Eclipse Award-winning brother, Jose; past meet champions Luis Saez and Paco Lopez; 2023 George Woolf nominee Junior Alvarado; and local stalwarts Edgard Zayas, Miguel Vasquez and Emisael Jaramillo.

“Listen, no doubt anyone who is anyone is down here at the moment. I’m looking forward to learning off them and at the same time looking forward to being competitive,” Levey said. “With a little bit of luck, I keep getting those opportunities.”

Return to the December 14 issue of Wire to Wire