We saw a fantastic tussle between defending champion Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton for the 2020/21 National Hunt Jockeys’ Championship, with the latter coming out on top for the first time. Some of the key moments took place at Stratford earlier this Spring behind closed doors. All the main contenders for the title next season are likely to appear regularly here, so Stratford is going to be an important track for them as they look to assert a lead over the summer and autumn. Here is a look at the main contenders.
Skelton finished last season incredibly strongly to get his hands on the trophy on the final day of the campaign at Sandown. The brother of trainer Dan Skelton said it was a ‘dream come true’ to win the trophy.
The majority of Skelton’s winners last season came from his brother. However, he also partnered a number of Paul Nicholls’ horses in March and April which proved really helpful in his battle with Hughes.
Skelton is 11/10 in horse racing betting to defend his title, and tops the betting for the first time in his career. If he has the same hunger and drive as he showed in the final months of the 2020/21 campaign, he is sure to have another strong chance, especially with the support he gets from the Lodge Hill yard.
The defending champion is a regular at Stratford as this is his local track. With 31 winners at this course over the last five years, no jockey has enjoyed more success here than Skelton.
Hughes will be keen to win back his championship and he should once again be in the mix in the closing stages of the season. The 2019/20 champion has a lot of success in the north, in particular, where he is the go-to man for many trainers.
When he was successful in 2020, Hughes was the first northern-based jockey to lift the trophy since Jonjo O’Neill in 1980. The Irishman is not afraid to rack up the miles in pursuit of the championship. Expect to see Hughes appear at the majority of Stratford’s meetings over the next 11 months. He has had 17 winners from his 66 rides here over the last five years.
11-time Grade One winner Harry Cobden was very much in contention for the title last season until he picked up a cheekbone fracture which ruled him out the final six weeks of the campaign.
Cobden is a very talented rider who is now retained by Champion trainer Nicholls. He is sure to partner a lot of top-class horses next season and given the size of Manor Farm stable, there should be no shortage of rides either.
The 22-year-old has been improving his number of winners with each season. If he is able to stay injury-free from now until April, he will have a big chance of landing his maiden title. It was an injury that put paid to his chances last season.
It’s going to be an exciting title race to follow this season, particularly when all three of the above jockeys appear at Stratford over the coming months.