Catch Me If You Can - The Race For The Jump Jockey Champs

Features | 31st October 2023

Can anyone catch runaway leader Sean Bowen in the National Hunt jockeys’ title race?

There might still be the best part of six months left in the season, but the Welsh rider has dashed into an impressive lead as he looks to become champion jump jockey for the first time. He is fast approaching the 100-winner mark for the season and has a sizable break on the chasing pack. Here we look at the prospects of the three main contenders

Sean Bowen

Sean has long-since been tipped as a future champion jockey having enjoyed success in point-topoints as a 16-year-old. The son of Pembrokeshire trainer Peter Bowen, he won the conditional jockeys’ title in his first full season after switching to professional racing. He’s since established himself as one of jump racing’s top riders. 

His personal-best 125 winners last season saw him fall 40 short of Brian Hughes but he has made a lightning-fast start to this campaign. He could even overhaul last season’s tally before Christmas after a superb summer. A tie-up with powerful Warwickshire trainer Olly Murphy has been key and it gives him plenty of ammunition going into the main jumps season. 

Dad Peter has supplied Sean with more winners over the summer months than any other trainer and the likes of Harry Fry, Martin Keighley, Ryan Potter, Gary Hanmer and even Sir Mark Prescott have all been keen to use his services. Gordon Elliott has also been a big supporter on the Irish trainer’s raids to these shores. Sean’s strength in the saddle and fierce determination gives the chasing pack a massive task if they are to derail his quest to be champion jockey.

Brian Hughes

Reigning champion Brian is chasing his fourth jockeys’ title. The 38-year-old, one of the elder statesmen of the weighing room, heads the pack trying to keep tabs with runaway leader Sean Bowen. Brian became the first northern-based champion jockey for 40 years when landing his first title in 2020. 

After finishing runner-up behind Harry Skelton the following year, he has won the last two jockeys’ championships but this summer has not been as prolific as usual. Donald McCain continues to provide most of the winners. There are plenty of other supporters keen to take advantage of his superb judgement of pace and sublime style over obstacles. 

Brian has long been the ‘go-to’ jockey in the north and his course statistics underline his domination. The softly-spoken Northern Irishman has ridden more than 200 winners at Sedgefield, while he’s also passed a century of victories at Ayr, Carlisle, Hexham, Kelso, Musselburgh, Newcastle, Perth and Wetherby. He is sure to rack up dozens of winners between now and the end of the season. Whether that is enough to see him retain his crown is another matter, but he won’t be going down without a fight.

Harry Cobden

The huge power of Paul Nicholls’ Somerset stables will be driving Harry’s title challenge. The 24-year-old would be going for a hat-trick of jump jockey’s championships if it was decided on prizemoney and not the number of winners. That reflects the high standard of horses he has at his disposal as Nicholls’ stable jockey. 

A Grade 1 double at last season’s Cheltenham Festival came through novices’ Stage Star and Stay Away Fay, as the Nicholls production line of smart jumpers continued to churn out top-class prospects. There will be no end of quality but Harry will need the quantity to go with it if he is to bridge the gap between himself and Sean Bowen. 

He will need Nicholls to again dominate but the champion trainer has never been responsible for firing any of his stable jockeys to title glory. Cobden clearly has the talent to put that right but finding the huge numbers of winner needed will not be easy.

Jump Jockeys' Title Race