Harry Skelton joins an illustrious roll of honour, joined for the occasion by his trainer brother Dan, jockey wife Bridget and Olympic gold medal-winning showjumper father Nick
THE 2020/2021 National Hunt season did not quite end as Harry Skelton might have wished but he was, nevertheless, crowned champion jump jockey for the first time at Sandown on Saturday (24 April).
After a titanic tussle, it only became mathematically certain that he had beaten Brian Hughes at Warwick on Thursday – amazing when you consider nine seasons ago he was down to eight winners.
“Since I’ve come into race riding, being champion jockey is something I’ve always wanted to achieve,” he said. “Not many people get to live out their childhood dream and I’m very lucky I’ve had the chance.
“You have to take each season as it comes but I’m going to just enjoy this as much as I can. At the end of the day I suppose when you have won it once you want to win it again.
“I’m very lucky, I’ve got a big stable to ride for and hopefully if I have a good, clean season free of injury and I’m in the same position again then of course I will try to do it again. The fact my name is on that trophy is very satisfying as a lot of the people on there are heroes of mine, which is very special.”
While it is his name engraved on a trophy, the 31-year-old insists his success is more of a team achievement than an individual one.
“It is my name on the trophy but there are a lot of people who have helped me do it and if it wasn’t for Dan [Skelton, brother and trainer] I wouldn’t be in this position.”
No one was prouder than his father, Olympic gold medal-winning showjumper Nick Skelton.
“Obviously it is in every jockey’s mind when they start,” said Nick, who watched him presented with his trophy by Sir Anthony McCoy. “For Harry to do so is remarkable, and I am very proud. He’ll want another one now!
“We don’t give up, we are not quitters. You have to keep fighting. That’s what I did and it is what I instilled into them. Harry and Dan were always around me when I was going to the shows. They grew up with horses and have taken it on into racing.
“Dan spent nine years with Paul [Nicholls]. He did a proper apprenticeship there and learnt everything, and so did Harry who was there at the same time. They are very close and work brilliantly together. In the past couple of weeks I was probably getting more agitated than Harry because I wanted him to win.
“There is everything I did, but when your boys do it I feel greater pride. The Olympic gold was five years ago. That was a great day for myself and the boys because they were still involved. We are a tight-knit family and I think we are good at what we do.
“I think they get their determination from me. Dan is also a great planner. He has planned this all out for Harry, week by week. The next thing would be to make Dan champion trainer but that will not be easy. Paul will not lie down, but that is his fault because he taught him everything. He only has himself to blame on that one!”
Paul Nicholls celebrated his 12th trainers title and Northern Irishman Danny McMenamin was crowned champion conditional jockey, joining an illustrious roll of honour that includes AP McCoy, Richard Johnson and Brian Hughes. The 20-year-old former pony racer has been based with Nicky Richards in Cumbria since 2017 and this season landed his first Grade Two.
JP McManus earned the title of leading owner and the recently retired four-time champion jockey Richard Johnson earned a special recognition award.
Full report on all the action from the jump racing season’s finale at Sandown in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 29 April
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