With four‐times champion Richard Johnson now safely retired following a fantastic career bettered only by Sir AP McCoy, the title is wide open.
Last season, Harry Skelton got the better of reigning champ Brian Hughes in a titanic battle that went down to the final days of the season.
Northern‐based Brian has made a flying start to this season and has built up a commending lead over the summer months.
Here’s a look at the main contenders in the race to be champion jumps jockey.
Northern Irishman Brian is the go‐to jockey for several of the most powerful northern trainers.
His tie‐up with Donald McCain helped him to become the first northern‐based champion jockey since Jonjo O’Neill 30 years earlier when his 141 winners handed him the title in 2020.
He held a clear lead in March going into the final weeks of last season but a strong burst of winners from Harry Skelton meant he couldn’t hold on to his crown.
Brian, 36, is again the hare for the others to catch following a fruitful summer. Donald continues to supply the lion’s share of his winners but Nicky Richards, Keith Dalglish, Brian Ellison and Charlie Longsdon are also likely to supply plenty of ammunition.
It will be fascinating to see if he can hold on to his lead throughout the winter months.
The reigning champ isn’t even in the top ten in the title race as the jumps season starts to hot up.
That shouldn’t worry Harry and his supporters as he had a similarly slow summer last year but still managed to overhaul Brian Hughes to claim his first champion jockey’s crown in the spring.
With the backing of his trainer‐brother Dan, he is certain to starting climbing the charts. Dan supplied Harry with an incredible 136 winners from his haul of 152 victories last season and they appear to have an equally‐strong squad for this campaign.
Recent Old Roan Chase winner Allmankind and last season’s Grade 1 Manifesto Chase hero Protektorat will fly the flag for their Warwickshire stable, while Harry will also be looking forward to partnering top prospect My Drogo when he reappears.
👏 What a performance from Allmankind @AintreeRaces for @harryskelton89 & @DSkeltonRacing— Racing TV (@RacingTV) October 24, 2021
🏇 Six runs over fences
🥇 Five wins
🏆 G1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase
🏆 G2 Monet's Garden Old Roan Chase
🏆 G2 Kingmaker Novices' Chase
🏆 G2 Future Champions Novices' Chase pic.twitter.com/jDlEhPZ5Gn
Sam is another rider happy to keep it in the family. He rides predominantly for his father Nigel. The Cotswolds‐based trainer, with two Grand Nationals and a Cheltenham Gold Cup to his name, has been churning out the winners since before 29‐year-old Sam was born.
He now loads the bullets for his eldest son to fire on the track. Sam has made a flying start to the season with the backing of dad, Worcestershire trainer Richard Newland and Neil Mulholland.
He has three times finished in third place in the jockeys’ title race and he heads into the main jumps season well placed to at least match those efforts.
He might have reached the veteran stage as a jump jockey, but Paddy shows no sign of slowing down.
The 40‐year‐old has been stable jockey for some of the country’s top trainers. He has won big races on some of the best horses in a career with more ups‐and‐downs than a north Atlantic fishing trawler.
Having ridden the likes of Imperial Commander, Cue Card and Inglis Drever to big‐race wins, Paddy is now teamed up with trainer Fergal O’Brien.
He has already rattled up more than half of last season’s 82 winners. Fergal’s recent merger with Graeme McPherson has given the Cotswolds‐based trainer more capacity so Paddy must have a great chance of hitting a century of winners for only the second time.
If the winners keep flowing from the red‐hot yard, he could even poke his nose into the title race.
Welsh rider Sean has enjoyed a superb summer. His dad, Pembrokeshire trainer Peter, has helped him rack up enough winners to keep him in the pack chasing down jockeys’ championship leader Brian Hughes.
The excellent form of Martin Keighley’s Cotswolds stables has been a big boost, while he has also ridden winners for top trainers Nicky Henderson and Denise Foster.
His seventh places in 2018 and 2019 remain his highest finishing positions in the riders’ list, so he has every chance of making it a personal best with such a good start behind him.
He’ll need the backing of a big stable if he is to challenge for the champion jockey title but it will surely not be long before the 24‐year‐old’s talents are snapped up by a leading trainer.
Riding as stable jockey for champion trainer Paul Nicholls is always going to make Harry a contender for the title.
He racked up a personal best 123 winners last term to finish third in the race to be champion jockey and he heads into the main jumps season with the highest strike‐rate of any of the regular jumps riders.
Riding for such a powerful trainer will allow Harry to combine quality with quantity. He will be getting the leg up on some of jump racing’s biggest stars. Dual King George hero Clan Des Obeaux heads the pile along with Cyrname and Politilogue. Bravemansgame and Knappers Hill are two recent winners likely to lead a strong team of novices for both hurdles and fences.
With the firepower at his disposal it makes Harry, 22, a strong contender to be champion jockey.