Nearly 500 guests from the world of National Hunt attended a star-studded awards ceremony at the home of jump racing, Cheltenham Racecourse, to celebrate the outstanding performances during the 2017/2018 season ahead of the start of an exciting new season.
These awards are named after AP McCoy, the record-breaking 20-time champion jockey, who retired from race-riding in April 2015.
The panel of judges for this year’s awards included Henrietta Knight, trainer of the three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Best Mate, Steve Jones, racing correspondent of The Sun, Cheltenham’s clerk of the course Simon Claisse and AP McCoy himself. The award winners included both equine and human stars from the industry.
Here is a selection of the winners:
JP McManus (leading owner of four or more horses)
JP comfortably landed the leading owner award, with 34 winners at Jockey Club racecourses across the country — 10 winners clear of his closest pursuer, the partnership of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. He is the most successful owner at the Cheltenham Festival with 54 winners and has won the Champion Hurdle a record seven times, including the latest two renewals with Buveur D’Air.
Nicky Henderson (leading trainer of more than 40 horses)
Nicky gained the leading trainer award having saddled 68 victors across Jockey Club racecourses last season. The Lambourn handler — the most successful British trainer ever at The Festival — saw off last year’s winner Paul Nicholls by eight winners.
Andrew Thornton (outstanding contribution award)
With a career spanning 28 years and a total of 1,007 winners, Andrew is a legend of the weighing room. He retired aged 45 at Uttoxeter in June this year when he was successful aboard Amirr. His career included three winners at The Festival, headlined by Cool Dawn in the 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and he partnered See More Business to King George success in 1997. Always one of the most popular members of the weighing room, he was nicknamed “Lensio” because he was one of the first jockeys to wear contact lenses.
Harry Skelton (leading professional jockey)
A very close race for leading professional jockey saw Harry — who has a successful partnership with his trainer brother Dan — take the honours with 40 winners at Jockey Club racecourses. He edged out Sam Twiston-Davies by a narrow margin, who also partnered 40 winners but had less placed mounts.
James Bowen (leading conditional jockey)
James hails from a racing dynasty — his father Peter is a jumps trainer, his older brother Sean is a National Hunt jockey too and other brother Mickey is also a trainer. James was a riding sensation during the 2017/2018 season, being crowned champion conditional with 58 successes. He was the leading conditional jockey across the Jockey Club racecourses, with 15 wins — three clear of his closest rival Bryony Frost.
Lorcan Williams (leading amateur jockey)
Lorcan has turned professional over the summer but was the champion amateur last season and rode six winners at Jockey Club racecourses, one clear of Tommie O’Brien and Hugh Nugent. Attached to the powerful Paul Nicholls stable, he is sure to be a name we will hear a lot more from.
Kate Robinson (stable person of the year)
Kate has been head girl to trainer Jamie Snowden since the Lambourn handler first took out his licence in 2008. She is in sole charge of the day-to-day running of the yard, and is an invaluable member of the team. Kate grew up in Cornwall, where she spent most of her childhood with horses, and rode in point-to-points. After graduating from Aberystwyth University with a BSc in Equine Science, Kate spent four seasons as head girl on a point-to-point and breaking yard in Warwickshire.
Apple’s Shakira (leading novice hurdler)
Apple’s Shakira, owned by JP McManus and trained by Nicky Henderson, enjoyed a campaign that saw her win three times at Cheltenham. She kicked off at The November Meeting when successful in the Grade Two Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle by 17 lengths, went on to score again at The International in December and in another Grade Two event on Festival Trials Day in January. She was fourth in the Grade One Triumph Hurdle at The Festival and finished the campaign by taking third in Grade One company at Aintree.
Politologue (leading chaser)
Politologue, a grey owned by John Hales and trained by Paul Nicholls, enjoyed four victories at Jockey Club racecourses. He began the campaign with three straight successes — in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park and the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park. After finishing fourth behind the mighty Altior in the Grade One Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival, he ended the campaign on a high when landing the Melling Chase at Aintree.
Native River (horse performance of the season)
Native River won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March in tremendous style. Owned by Brocade Racing and trained by Colin Tizzard, Native River was one of the leading chasers in the 2016/2017 season, when he won the Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National. During the 2017/2018 campaign he was kept fresh for The Festival and was not seen out until winning the Denman Chase at Newbury in February. He then headed back to Cheltenham and made all for a gallant victory over Might Bite in the Cheltenham Gold Cup under regular jockey Richard Johnson.
Tiger Roll (judges’ choice award)
Owner Michael O’Leary described Tiger Roll as a “a little rat of a thing, but he has the heart of a lion”. With three wins in three different races at the Festival — the 2014 Triumph Hurdle, the 2017 National Hunt Chase and the 2018 Cross-Country Chase — the son of 2007 Derby winner Authorized is one of the most versatile horses seen in recent times. In 2018, Tiger Roll added the biggest prize of all to his CV — the Grand National, holding on for a head-length success under Davy Russell.
Might Bite (horse of the season)
Trained by Nicky Henderson for the Knot Again Partnership, Might Bite enjoyed an outstanding season, winning three of his four starts and running another excellent race when runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. After an easy winning reappearance at Sandown in November, he landed the Boxing Day highlight at Kempton Park, the King George VI Chase. On the back of that performance, he was sent off the 4/1 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but found Native River too strong. He ended the season with a Grade One victory at Aintree.