The Race To Be Champion Conditional

Features | 25th October 2022

The race to be crowned champion conditional jockey is hotting up

As the core National Hunt season starts to gather pace, the best young jump jockeys are battling it out for the prestigious title.

They are aiming to join the likes of Sir AP McCoy and Richard Johnson on the roll of honour. More
recently Jonjo O’Neill jnr, Bryony Frost and Harry Cobden headed into the ranks of the fully-fledged
jockeys as top conditional.

Here’s a look at this season’s leading contenders…

Kevin Brogan

Reigning conditional champion Kevin Brogan will attempt to become the first dual winner of the title for more than 30 years. He etched his name on to the roll of honour with 47 winners last season. It came just 18 months after arriving at Jonjo O’Neill’s Cotswold stables having made the switch from Ireland. 

A successful summer has seen him lose his conditional jockeys’ weight allowance but the winners have continued to flow. Kevin, 22, has been supported by a number of top trainers including Neil Mulholland and Harry Fry. Toby Lawes and Gary Hanmer are other trainers, along with Kevin’s boss, to supply plenty of firepower. That backing is likely to continue to make back-to-back conditional jockey championships a distinct possibility

Philip Armson

The early pacesetter in the race to be champion conditional is Philip Armson. The 22-year-old – attached to David Pipe’s Somerset yard – has had a productive summer. It’s a far cry from the 2019/20 season when the son of trainer Richard Armson failed to ride a single winner from 65 rides. Since replying to an advert placed by Pipe when looking for a 7lbs-claiming jockey, Philip has not looked back. 

He has impressed with his ability to judge the pace of a race and he put those skills to good use when landing the Somerset National at Wincanton on El Paso Wood last season. Despite being unable to claim any of his weight allowance, which is now down to 3lbs, Pipe gave Philip the ride on Romain De Senam in the Grand National. The pair safely negotiated the famous Aintree fences to finish in tenth place. There are sure to be more opportunities for the title-chasing rider this season.

Emma Smith-Chaston

Lucy Alexander and Bryony Frost are both former champion conditional jockeys. Emma Smith-Chaston has a chance of becoming the third female rider to land the title. The 23-year-old has already raced past her previous best season’s total with an impressive strikerate of more than 20 per cent so far this term. 

She has struck up a particularly good partnership with Larry Looby. Emma has ridden the staying chaser, trained by her boss Micky Hammond, to five victories already this year. Growing up in Lancashire, Emma wanted to be a nurse but a fear of needles meant she was probably wise to try her hand at racing. Her caring nature clearly rubs off on the horses she rides and she’s another live contender for the champion conditionals’ honour.

Harry Kimber

Harry Kimber is going full throttle in pursuit of the conditionals’ title. The 22-year-old has swapped two wheels for four legs as he carves out a career as a jump jockey. For much of his teenage years it looked like Harry impressed using a very different form of horsepower. He was national motocross champion for his age group before Gold Cup-winning trainer Colin Tizzard suggested his balance on a motorbike would help him if he wanted to become a jockey. 

Harry, attached to the Dorset stables now run by Tizzard’s son Joe, rode a dozen winners last season. He’s already passed that total this year after a productive summer. Several west country trainers have been quick to spot his talents. Kieran Burke, Bill Turner, Robert Walford and Jackie Du Plessis have all provided Harry with winners. The 5lbs-claiming conditional clearly has plenty of backing. That must make him a contender for the young jump jockeys’ title.

Luca Morgan

Luca Morgan’s confidence must be sky high as he heads into the core jumps season. The 21-year-old won ride of the month for September for his skilful handling of Gentleman Valley at Uttoxeter. The tricky hurdler didn’t even want to line up for a conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter. Despite continually spinning around at the start, Luca got him racing and the pair went on to win. 

It was more evidence that Luca, a product of the British pony racing scene, is one of the rising stars of National Hunt racing. His in-form boss Ben Pauling, who moved to his new Cotswolds base on Naunton Downs Golf Course last year, has been giving the young rider plenty of opportunities. They have formed a formidable partnership this summer and there’s no reason why that won’t continue throughout the season.