It may seem crazy to be talking about the jockey’s title so early in the jumps season, but that is precisely what many people are doing. For the first time in a very long time, it looks as though we may have a genuine title race between two jockeys for the jumps crown. Richard Johnson has won the title for the past three seasons since the retirement of AP McCoy, but Harry Skelton is aiming to overthrow the leader of the weighing room and has started very well in his quest.
Skelton has already built up a lead of over 20 winners on Johnson, during a time when both of them traditionally do very well. Things get harder during the winter months, as neither of them is attached to stables that have a huge amount of winners, so the more they get now, the better their chances of being able to hold on and win the title.
This is going to be Skelton’s biggest problem, he is too attached to the Dan Skelton yard, and Dan doesn’t provide him with enough winners to be a title threat. Dan had just over 150 winners last season, and while that is an impressive number, Harry needs to be targeting the 200 mark if he is to lift the jockey’s title. Of course, he can’t ride every single winner his dad has, so from somewhere he is going to need to find at least 50 additional winners.
To show how much work Harry and his agent Ian Popham have to do, Harry rode winners for just three different yards last season, while Richard Johnson rode winners for 44 yards. That is a huge difference and shows the variance in ammunition that the pair is going to have over the winter months. It is great for Harry to be riding three and four winners per day during the few meetings we have in the summer, but when the going gets tough as it always does on the Skelton yard in the winter, where are his other winners going to come from?
Richard Johnson may be behind right now, but he is experienced enough to know this is a very long game. He knows he will have the support of many trainers once again, something that gives him the edge over his rival Harry at the moment. There is no doubt that Harry does have the talent to become a champion jockey, and he has shown his skill to good effect on a weekly basis since the start of the new season. However, he doesn’t have the same contacts that Richard Johnson has, and that is likely to be what holds him back.
While it may seem a little strange, it is great that we are talking about the jockeys championship in July, and let’s hope that the race for the title proves to be an exciting one that we can follow throughout the coming jumps season.