As the 2017/18 Jump Racing season gets underway, Racing Breaks want to give you some inside knowledge of some of the top riders to keep your eye on as the season progresses. Will the reigning champion gallop to victory for a third time… or will a young star beat him to the line?
Hereford born Richard Johnson has been involved in racing from a young age. His father was an amateur jockey and his mother Sue, a successful trainer for whom Richard as a child would ride out for every morning before school. Winning his first championship title as a conditional jockey at the age of 18, Richard has always strived to be the best. Although, he is thought to be one of the best jump jockeys of all time, the 40-year-old has only held the championship twice having finished second to AP McCoy for 16 years running. He is one of only three to win all four championship races at Cheltenham and has ridden in the Grand National an incredible 20 times. Richard is currently stable jockey for Somerset based trainer Phillip Hobbs however, rides for numerous others. Could we see him at the top again this season?
North Yorkshire based jockey Brian Hughes did not get off to the best start last year with an injury which meant he was out of action for most of the Autumn however, still managed well to finish second to Richard Johnson in the championship. Brian had a fantastic winner at the Festival last year on Ian Williams’ ‘Ballyalton’ in the Novices’ Handicap Chase. As he is based slightly out of the way of the main hub of racing yards, Brian does extremely well to obtain a share of good rides and wins. His most recent big race meeting win was before the end of last season, when he won the Champion Novices’ Chase at Ayr on Malcolm Jefferson’s ‘Cloudy Dream’, a half-brother to the much-loved chaser Many Clouds. With a hope for a better start this season, there is nothing that will stop Brian on his way to the top.
Son of jumps trainer, Nigel and brother of flat jockey Willie, Sam Twiston-Davies is part of a successful racing family with plenty of knowledge and experience between them. At only 24 years of age, Sam is the retained jockey of ten-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls, a position many other jockeys are envious of. Some of his well-known rides include ‘Saphir De Rheu’ who missed out on a place in last years’ Cheltenham Gold Cup, and top-class champion hurdler ‘The New One’ trained by his father Nigel. Finishing third in line for the championship last season, Sam is already off to a great start for 2017/18 as he currently sitting in fifth place behind Noel Fehily. Will age conquer experience?
Irish born Aidan Coleman was recognised as one of the youngest jockeys to ride in the Grand National at the mere age of 19 back in 2006. Since then he has had many more incredible rides to his name and for some of the best trainers in the country. He has ridden for the likes of Jonjo O’Neil, Venetia Williams and Colin Tizzard to name a few. His big race wins include the famous Betfair Denman Chase with Native River at Newbury where 1st place wins £28,475 prize money. Aidan has yet to win the Stobart Jumps Jockey Championship however, won the Conditional Jockey championship in April 2009 making him the leading conditional jockey in the UK for the 2008 season. Could this be his year…who knows, the competition is now hotter than ever and it is no easy feat.
41-year-old Noel Fehily started his career back in his homeland Ireland on the point-to-point circuit, where most professional Irish jockeys start their racing careers’. Once turning professional, Noel became second jockey to Jonjo O’Neil as well as riding for trainer Charlie Mann. His greatest winners include the Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase, the King George VI Chase on Silviniaco Conti, the Tingle Creek Chase and the Champion Hurdle on Buveur d’Air for trainer Nicky Henderson. Noel currently sits in fourth place for the championship this season but there is still plenty of time for things to change and with experience on his side…this may be his year to shine.