With just five days to go in an epic battle to decide this season’s jump jockeys’ championship, Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton are separated by just eight winners as the pair race towards Saturday’s finish line.
Reigning champion Brian entered the final week with a total of 140 winners this season, while 31-year-old challenger Harry held a six-point advantage with 146 winners and an impressive strike rate of 22%.
But adding a winning double to his tally at Hexham this afternoon (19 April), it is Harry who is now the odds-on favourite to claim his first jockeys’ championship.
He told H&H: “It’s great to be in this position, and it’s one I’ve always hoped I’d be in. The horses are in great form and they’ve been running well. It’s a credit to our team and I just need to keep pushing now all the way to the end.”
“It’s never over till it’s over, so day by day, race by race you just need to keep focused and keep doing the best you can, like you always do,” he added. “But to win the title is a dream I’ve always had.”
While 35-year-old Brian admitted that “the advantage is with Harry now”, he said he would continue to chase his main rival.
“It’s not over yet and we’ll give it our best shot,” he said.
The championship will be decided at Sandown this Saturday (24 April) but first both Harry and Brian will continue to battle it out at Sedgefield, Ludlow and Perth’s three-day festival (Wednesday to Friday) over the course of the next few days.
Find out everything you need to know about the British jump jockey Harry Skelton
National Hunt trainer Dan Skelton and his brother Harry, a jockey, battle it out with Dan behind the wheel of
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
Paul Nicholls’ stable jockey Harry Cobden had also been in the running for the title, making for a thrilling three-way sprint to the finish, until an injury at Aintree this month ruled him out for the rest of the season, finishing with a total of 123 winners.
This year’s championship has provided one of the most thrilling finishes to the National Hunt season since the legendary head-to-head between Adrian Maguire and Richard Dunwoody in 1993-1994.
Brian Hughes took the title for the first time last year, taking on the mantle from four-time champion and now recently retired Richard Johnson. Prior to that AP McCoy had reigned in the jump jockeys’ championship for 20 years in a row. He set the British record for 289 winners ridden in a season.
Harry Skelton, who has ridden the majority of his winners for elder brother Dan, is also closing in on a landmark 1,000 career wins.
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.