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 12:00pm, 11th January
Cumbria-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 then hopped over the Irish Sea to start a fruitful association with the powerful Nicky Richards yard in Cumbria.
Richards’ stables at Greystoke Castle are steeped in racing history, having housed thousands of winners since his late father Gordon Richards set up there in the 1960s.
Danny, has already claimed big winners in his nascent career. He claimed the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, 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 strength and timing 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 as we come down to the final few months of the season.
Another young, talented Irish jockey, Bryan Carver has showed his qualities 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 2019. 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 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.
Jack has continued riding winners for Christian and the duo will no doubt be gearing up to April where stable star Potters Corner will be fancied in the most historic race of all, the Grand National.
Originally raised in Kent, Rex has forged his burgeoning career with Dorset-based trainer Anthony Honeyball. The talented rider initially burst onto the scene in the 2018/19 season riding 33 winners at a very healthy strike rate of 18%.
For added context, Champion Jockey Brian Hughes is currently operating at a strike rate of 17% and topping the Championship.
A horror fall at Ffos Las then saw Rex’s fracture vertebrae in his back, requiring the rider to go through an arduous recovery process, side-lining him for months.
However, far from set back by the fall, Rex recovered well and even went on to record his biggest career winner to date with victory at the Cheltenham Festival. A power-packed finish saw Rex and the Paul Webber-trained 25/1 shot Indefatigable win the finale race of the meeting, the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle.
This term he has continued his good form riding 17 winners from 144 rides, recently riding out his claim on Boxing Day aboard Belle De Manech. Despite losing his claim, it’s easy to see why this talented rider will continue to pick up plenty of good rides.
The most senior of the contenders at 25-years-old, Max Kendrick is having the most successful year of his career.
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 only 14 winners separating 1st and 10th this year’s Champion Conditional Jockey title is still very much up for grabs.
Not so far out of contention lie a number of intriguing contenders. Charlie Hammond currently sit’s 10th on 13 winners but has the backing of prominent trainer Dr Richard Newland and has picked up 138 rides to date, close to double the amount of his closest rivals hovering around that same mark.
Other prominent contenders include Kevin Brogan, Jordan Nailor, Lily Pinchin and Fergus Gillard who all sit just a few off that top 5 between 13 and 16 wins. Either way, with such a tightly packed group there will no doubt be plenty of drama right up until the title is decided on the 24th April this year.