Soon-to-be 20-time Champion Jump Jockey AP McCoy is to retire at his last race at Sandown on 25th April this year and so, in the nature of horse racing, we at The Gaitpost thought we’d have a look into next year’s possible title taker.
There are multiple contestants ready to compete for the achievement, but we’ll just focus on the top five from this year – after all this is horse racing and anything could happen!
First up is Richard Johnson who has been placed second to McCoy in the champion jockeys table an astonishing fifteen times. The Hereford born 37 year old says he’ll give it ‘everything he’s got’ (BBC Sport) in 2016 and with the bookies backing him at 3-1 he seems to be the most likely to triumph. Johnson became Champion Conditional Jockey in 1995, aged 18, and will certainly be hoping to claim his long-awaited professional title next year. He is one of three jockeys riding today to have won all four Championship races at Cheltenham (including Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty) and became the eighth National Hunt Jockey to ride 1,000 winners in Britain in 2003 soon to gain 2,000 winners in 2009. He is the most backed jockey to claim McCoy’s title and wouldn’t he deserve it!
However, he is currently placed third in the table behind flat and chase jockey Tom Scudamore. With 146 winners this season (just one more than Johnson), the 32 year old has a 22% strike rate compared to McCoy’s 28%. Son of eight time Champion Jockey Peter Scudamore and grandson of 1959 Grand National winning jockey Michael Scudamore the father of two rides for trainer David Pipe. Having claimed the British Amateur Champion Jockey title in 2001 it’s hoped by many that he can add a professional championship title to his list of career achievements.
At 7-1 odds to win, Sam Twiston-Davies, son of Gold Cup, Ryanair Chase and two time Grand National winning National Hunt trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, certainly has racing in his blood. But at just 23 years old does the Nicholls-retained jockey have it in him? The current champion claimed his first title at just 20 years old and, much like McCoy, Twiston-Davies has already achieved some big wins including: The 2015 Coral Cup Handicap hurdle, 2015 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, 2013 & 2014 StanJames.com International Hurdle and 2010 & 2014 Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase. Now that the greatest competition is out of the way, Twiston-Davies is most definitely a competitor.
Barry Geraghty may be 12th in the Champion Jockey’s table for this season, but he is well backed by multiple betting companies including Betfair who place him at 8-1 odds; currently positioned 4th behind Tom Scudamore (Oddschecker). The Irish jockey holds the 1999/00 and 2003/04 Irish Jump Racing Champion Jockey titles, was voted Irish Sports Personality of the Year in 2003 and became the first jockey to win all four big races at The Cheltenham Festival (Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers Hurdle, Gold Cup) and The Grand National in 2009. 35 year old Geraghty has ridden significant horses such as Moscow Flyer, Kicking King and Bobs Worth – he could provide Ireland with another Champion Jockey title – how does that country do it?!
Finally, Noel Fehily is currently 6th in the Champion jockey’s table and is another Irish contender. Born in 1975, Fehily has had an 18% strike rate this year, 10% less than McCoy, and has had 69 more winners this season than Ruby Walsh according to The Professional Jockeys Association. Having started on the Point to Point circuit in Ireland, Fehily moved to the UK and claimed his first amateur win at Plumpton in 1998. Since 2012, he has been first jockey to Emma Lavelle although he has often been asked to ride horses for Paul Nichols including: Rock on Ruby, Zarkander and Silviniaco Conti. This 40 year old may well be a dark horse to watch carefully.
The likelihood that there will be another AP McCoy in our lifetime is low. We can but hope that one of the five above will come close to his success, however for now, we must thank one of the greatest people alive for the incredible memories and some of the best bits of riding anyone will ever see. AP, we salute you.