This season’s battle to become the coveted Champion Conditional Jockey is well underway, with several talented young jockey jostling for the early lead.
A “Conditional” is the term given to young riders competing with a weight allowance in Jumps racing, the mirror opposite of the Apprentices on the Flat.
The Champion Conditional Jockey will be crowned at Sandown Park on Saturday 24th April 2021. So there’s plenty of time yet for for the stars of the future to make their mark.
Stats correct as of 9:00am, 19th November
Leading the table at present is 18-year-old Jack Tudor.
The young Welsh rider has got off to something of a flying start already in his young career; principally enjoying success as a part of the Christian Williams stable.
The biggest day for the Welsh trainer/jockey combo undoubtedly came when they landed their country’s premier prize, the Welsh Grand National, with stable star Potters Corner last year.
Trainer Williams was impressed but not at all surprised, commenting “Jack gave him the ride I thought he would. I knew what Jack was capable of that 12 months ago, so it’s no surprise to me the ride he gave the horse.”
Jack was a keen rugby player growing up, so to win the Welsh Grand National on a horse part-owned by Welsh Rugby Union legend Johnathan Davies was undoubtedly a big thrill.
It’s not just one big victory to the young man’s name either, Jack won the Grade 3 Betway Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown last season at Sandown.
The northern-based jockey Danny McMenamin is continuing his good form from last season where he had 28 winners at a 12.5% strike rate.
Danny’s career started at trainer’s Brian Hamilton stable in Downpatrick, not far from where Danny grew up. He said that Brian was a huge influence on him and developed him from a good rider into a more strong, confident jockey.
The Northern-Irish man moved to northern England where he became associated with the Nicky Richards yard in Cumbria.
Richards’ stables at Greystoke Castle are steeped in racing history, having housed thousands of winners since his father Gordon Richards set up there in the 1960s.
Danny, like Jack Tudor, has already claimed big winners in his nascent career. Last sesaon he claimed the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham, fulfilling a childhood dream of riding a winner at the famous track.
This season Danny has gone one step higher by winning the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase at Aintree aboard Nuts Well. A really gutsy, never-say-die ride that showcasing his immense strength in the finish to come on top.
Danny is one of the more experienced conditionals gunning for the Champion Conditional Jockey title with 60 winners to his name. Being able to comfortably ride to the minimum weight of 10 stone will be a valuable asset too.
Another young, talented Irish jockey, Bryan Carver has showed his qualities early on this season with a winner on the big stage. The 22-year-old partnering Magic Saint to win at the Cheltenham November meeting.
Bryan grew up in a small town called Kanturk in County Cork, he didn’t sit on a horse until he was 15 but from that first moment, he caught the racing bug.
He had a very successful point-to-point career, amassing 39 winners over three seasons. Bryan puts much of his recent success and development into a top Conditional down to his pointing career.
Bryan’s biggest day in his short time in racing was having an amazing 883/1 treble at Exeter on New Year’s Day. Using that remarkable feat he went on to claim 23 winners in total last season.
Being attached to the mighty Paul Nicholls yard doubtlessly brings a certain type of pressure, but Bryan has shown absolutely no signs of it affecting his confidence.
The most senior of the contenders at 25-years-old, Max Kendrick is having the most successful year of his career undoubtedly.
Max learnt his craft through Pony racing in his teenage years before becoming an amateur and taking on the pros on the big stage. He joined trainer Ben Case’s team during the early years developing into a top amateur, Max then made the leap to conditional at 21 years old.
Max has suffered a number injuries along the way including a fractured fibula and clavicle. He’s showed great fortitude to overcome these harsh obstacles and now appears to be riding with more confidence than ever before.
The 3 pound claimer is based at Graeme McPherson’s yard in the Cotswolds as well as having a strong affiliation with Fergal O’Brien.
With less than 10 winners separating 1st and 8th at such an early stage of the season it’s all very much up for grabs to be Champion Conditional Jockey.
Outside the top four, established riders like Rex Dingle and Connor Brace are knocking on the door.
The prominent pair are also only six and five wins away respectively from losing their riding allowance, which will toughen their chances of making a prolonged title push.
Theo Gillard, Kevin Brogan, Tom Buckley and Billy Garritty are all riding well and by no means out of the hunt a little further down the table.