Following the retirement of leading jumps jockey AP McCoy last weekend, Wayne Dews looks at who might fill his riding boots as champion jockey for 2016.
Anthony Peter McCoy retired from the National Hunt racing scene last Saturday at Sandown Park, to a fanfare of well-wishers from owners, trainers and spectators – and is widely recognised as the greatest horseman ever to climb into the saddle.
He received his 20th and final National Hunt jockey’s trophy at the weekend, and was awarded the trophy permanently.
With 4348 winners, 31 Cheltenham Festival victories, including two Gold Cups, one Champion Chase and three Champion Hurdles, AP won virtually every other major horse race in the sports’ calendar, with another career highlight being his one Grand National victory, on Don’t Push it back in 2012.
McCoy has ultimately stepped down at the peak of his powers – and crucially – before his skills begin to wane. The 40-year-old Northern Irishman had earlier earmarked a serious attempt at 300 winners this season, but unfortunately injury curtailed any hopes of that. While McCoy can now relax and look back on a career without peer, the race is now on to be the first name on the new 2016 National Hunt Jockey’s Championship trophy. Here we will look at some of the main contenders to take over from the greatest jockey of them all.
Richard Johnson, who has been runner-up to AP McCoy on 15 separate occasions, is the current market leader to gain a long-awaited success. Johnson, stable jockey to Phillip Hobbs has ridden over 2800 career winners himself in a fine career, and is desperate to add a Jockeys’ title to his burgeoning CV.
You have to feel some sympathy for Johnson as in any other era without the mercurial McCoy, he would surely have several titles already stacked away. Provided that the 37 year-old can stay injury-free within the next campaign, there would be no other horseman more deserving to take over from the legend of McCoy – but he has several challengers awaiting battle.
Sam Twiston-Davies ended the 2014/15 campaign with 145 winners, and along with the backing of the powerful Paul Nicholls stable, he must be a strong contender for the upcoming championship race. The 22-year-old has improved dramatically since becoming the number one pilot at Ditcheat, and has numerous big-race wins in 2013/14 that will firm-up the youngsters’ belief that he can sustain a challenge.
Twiston-Davies rode around 100 horses less than Johnson in the most recent campaign, and if he can gain more rides and maintain his excellent strike-rate, then the son of trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies could well be celebrating his maiden title in twelve months’ time.
After riding 50 more winners last season, than his previous best of 100 in 2013/14, Tom Scudamore is another jockey who is high on the shortlist for consideration. Scudamore will be looking to emulate his father, Peter, who won eight titles himself. Scudamore is attached to the David Pipe stable, but also has other contacts within the National Hunt sphere from a freelance perspective which could catapult the 32 year-old into being the sports’ number one jockey.
After AP McCoy’s retirement, JP McManus will be requiring a new stable jockey for his extensive line of horses. This in itself is a key element to the new destination of the Jockeys’ title for 2015/16. If Barry Geraghty was to be the new incumbent for McManus, then his odds to be the new champion jockey would tumble dramatically. Geraghty, admittedly, already has a very fine job as stable jockey for the Nicky Henderson yard, but it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see the Irishman jump ship to ride for his fellow countryman.
The 35 year-old is no stranger to riding big winners for McManus as Jezki and More Of That proved at the Cheltenham Festival back in 2014. Geraghty is a big race player, who might just be tempted for one crack at the Jockey’s title late in his career.