Harry Skelton has been formally crowned Champion Jockey for the first time as the Jumps season reaches its finale at Sandown, with Paul Nicholls regaining the trainers’ title.
Skelton has been involved in a thrilling title race with defending champion Brian Hughes throughout the final weeks of the season but finally opened up an unassailable lead on Thursday, having passed 150 winners for the campaign the day before.
Skelton’s most high-profile winners included a Grade 1 double at Sandown in December, with Tingle Creek success on Politologue preceded by a win in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase with Allmankind, while Shan Blue’s Boxing Day win in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton provided another top level triumph.
After a difficult Cheltenham Festival, the 31-year-old bounced back with a Grade 1 double at Aintree in partnership with My Drogo and Protektorat.
The vast majority of those have come for brother Dan, who has enjoyed a terrific season in the training ranks, but he could not deny Nicholls a 12th Champion Trainer crown as he took back the title surrendered to long-term adversary Nicky Henderson at the end of last year’s Covid-curtailed season.
The Ditcheat master recorded a career-best 172nd winner of the season at Perth this week - a commendable feat, given the two-month delay to the start of the campaign - with standout wins including a record 12th in the King George, courtesy of Frodon, and Politologue’s aforementioned Tingle Creek triumph, though he, like Skelton, struggled at Cheltenham.
Remarkably, Irish trainer Henry De Bromhead finishes third in the standings, which, unlike the jockey rankings are based on prize money rather than winners, despite having fewer than 40 runners in the UK this season.
By contrast, Skelton and Nicholls both had over 700, but De Bromhead landed four of the season’s most valuable prizes in the shape of the Grand National, Gold Cup, Champion Chase and Champion Hurdle. He also saddled the runner-up in the first two named.
Minella Times’ Grand National success also helped JP McManus to his 14th Champion Owner title, while Danny McMenamin is Champion Conditional Jockey.