Shane answers the doubters
It may be a surprise to many that when Shane 'Canterman' Ellis topped this year's jockeys' championship with 83 wins, it was only the second title for the Caymanas Park favourite.
The son of former three-time champion Winston Ellis, the 'Canterman' has a well-deserved reputation having won all of the major trophies at Caymanas Park in his two decades of riding.
Ellis, who has had riding experience in Canada, and Trinidad and Tobago, says he has never really focused his attention on winning jockeys' titles, just the big races and getting as many wins as possible each year. And at the start of the 2015 season, his focus was very much the same, until midway through the year when observers realised he was Robert Halledeen's (second with 71 wins) main threat for the championship.
"At the start of the season, I wasn't even thinking about the championship. I was thinking about winning classics. But as time went by, I was always close to the leaders and people were saying that I cannot win the championship. So I had to prove a point to the fans who doubted Shane Ellis," he told The Gleaner.
But although he answered the critics, there are those who now say the two-time champion jockey cannot repeat the feat in 2016, and he is determined more than ever to make it two-in-a-row next year.
"I was focused this year and next year, I will be even more focused. I can do it again," he insisted.
Dane Nelson (before he left for Canada), Omar Walker, and Halledeen all held the lead at various times. Ellis, however, took charge in the last four months of the year to hold off a late challenge from Halledeen.
"When you have two jockeys competing strongly, the fans get involved and that plays a big role in everything. You have to stay focused to be successful or you won't make it. But he (Halledeen) will learn from this experience," Ellis added.
Ellis' who surpassed 1,000 winners this year (now 1,033), is sixth on the all-time list for local riders. He, along with all-time leading jockey Winston 'Fanna' Griffiths, are the only riders still active locally who have won all five classics.
However, he is disappointed that Caymanas Track Limited or the Jamaica Racing Commission failed to acknowledge his 1,000 winners milestone.
"My career has been very good and I thank all supporters and fans who have been there throughout. No matter the criticism, they remained die-hard Shane Ellis fans and I love those people. Not that I do not love the people that criticise me, because when they criticise me it helps me to get better.
"But what I was surprised about and very disappointed with was that I went past a 1,000 wins this year and they didn't recognise it," he commented.
Ellis graduated as an apprentice jockey in 1996 with high expectations and it was no surprise when he won his first classic and first championship in 2000.
The 'Canterman' has ridden 14 classic winners to date, including four 1000 Guineas with RAY OF HOPE 2000, LATONIA 2004, SAINT CECELIA 2009 and NIPHAL 2011. Two 2000 Guineas - ROYAL IMAGE 2008 and WILLIE GOLDSMITH 2013. Three Derby wins - AWESOME POWER 2001, TYPEWRITER 2012 and RELAMPAGO 2014.
His Oaks wins came aboard LATONIA 2004, SAINT CECELIA 2009 and RAEVEN RANAE 2013) and he won the St Leger with TYPEWRITER 2012 and RELAMPAGO 2014. He has also had success in the Superstakes with PITTACUS 2003 and TYPEWRITER 2014.