Harry Skelton has been crowned the British Champion Jockey for the first time in his career following a strong battle with defending champion Brian Hughes in the second half of the season.
Warwickshire-based Skelton, brother of trainer Dan, has had his best year yet as he had ridden 152 winners of the campaign, enough to get his hands on the prestigious trophy.
Skelton now joins Tony McCoy, Richard Johnson, and Hughes as one of only four men to land the prize since 2000. He will now be turning his attention to defending his title next season, something only McCoy and Johnson have managed in the last 30 years.
The majority of his rides this season have been for his brother Dan, although Skelton did pick up some spare rides from Paul Nicholls recently due to an injury to stable jockey Harry Cobden.
It is a fine achievement for Skelton as he had over 200 fewer rides than Hughes. He has had fantastic momentum over the last couple of months where the horses at Lodge Hill have been in great form, particularly the fresher ones.
Although the UK National Hunt Jockeys Championship is now wrapped up, the season is not over for Skelton. This week he has been in Ireland for the Punchestown Festival, where he was be hoping for a big run from Nube Negra in the Punchestown Champion Chase. Expectations were high as Skelton’s runner was 9/2 in the horse racing betting for the 2m contest. However, he and the other British runner, First Flow were eclipsed by Chacun Pour Soi for the dominant Mullins stable.
However, the Cheltenham Festival did not quite go the way of the Skelton brothers this year. They had high hopes going into the meeting in Gloucestershire but were unable to land any of the major races.
Skelton will have been much happier with the way the Grand National Festival went at Aintree. He was victorious with Protektorat, and My Drogo, the latter in the Grade One Mersey Novices’ Hurdle. The Champion Jockey came home sixth in the big race of the meeting on board Blaklion. The 12-year-old veteran finished in the marathon contest strongly, outrunning his odds of 50/1, the only British-trained horse in the first ten home.
One of the biggest successes Skelton has had on the track in the UK came at the Festival in 2020 when he rode Politologue to success in the Queen Mother Championship Chase. That proved he was capable of coming out on top against the best jockeys in the leading races in the sport. He triumphed on the same horse again in last December's Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Skelton is also a winner of the Irish Grand National. He was the youngest winner of the contest at Fairyhouse when he prevailed with Niche Market in 2009. His numbers over the last few years have steadily increased as his confidence has clearly grown.
The future is going to be bright for the new Champion Jockey, particularly as his brother Dan has some exciting horses to look forward to next season. He deserves a few weeks off this summer before the new jumps campaign begins all over again.