It was a family affair for Harry Skelton as he notched his maiden champion jockey crown on Thursday – only the fourth man of the modern era to achieve such a status.
The 31-year-old has ridden 152 winners this season – and counting – and 136 of those have been trained by his brother, Dan.
It is National Hunt’s most fearsome duo, and it was fitting that after being crowned champion yesterday Skelton went on to win another race – a Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter – aboard his brother’s entry Shentri.
Skelton won’t be handed the trophy until the meeting at Sandown tomorrow, but his superiority has now been mathematically confirmed after his nearest challenger – the defending champion Brian Hughes – simply ran out of rides with the end of the campaign rapidly approaching.
Skelton admitted that it wasn’t until a meeting at Ascot in February that he truly realised he had a chance of winning.
“I knew the horses were in good form, I knew I had the ammunition to do it,” he said.
“Shannon Bridge [the winner at Ascot] was the turning point when I knew we had some fresh horses to go at, that is a big plus, horses that hadn’t been racing over the winter and I knew Dan’s planning.
“I know what he’s capable of, when he’s got something in his mind, you’d be doing well to get it out of his head. Once I had a sniff of something, I’m a competitor and I was willing to give it my all.”
The jockey as also quick to heap praise on those who had made his success possible.
“I hope the people who have helped me get here will realise it might be my name there, but it’s a part of them as well,” he confirmed.
“All the staff at Lodge Hill, I hope they can get a kick out of it and realise it is down to them.”
Big brother Dan spoke of his pride at watching his sibling complete a fine campaign, and a post on his yard’s Twitter feed confirmed that the younger Skelton was back to work this morning – champion or not.
— Dan Skelton Racing (@DSkeltonRacing) April 23, 2021
Proud Racing Family Gets Ultimate Reward
As the children of an Olympic gold medal winning showjumper, the Skeltons were always likely to follow a career path with horses.
Horse racing was to gain from their love, with Nick Skelton showing his progeny the ropes and helping to set Dan up with his first training facility.
The champion jockey race in 2020/21 has been an enthralling cat-and-mouse affair, with Hughes leading for large swathes of the campaign before the Skeltons began to thrive on the firmer ground.
Harry eventually took over the lead of the championship as recently as April 13, and since then he hasn’t looked back – notching his 150th winner of the season at Ludlow on Wednesday.
Hughes has been travelling the length and breadth of the country to try and get back on level terms, but his endeavours proved to be for nothing on Thursday when one of seven booked rides at Perth he only came up with one winner.
Skelton, with a decent evening’s work at Exeter, extended his lead to ten winners – Hughes, with only seven more booked rides this term, cannot catch him and will now relinquish the champion jockey’s title.
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The achievement is made all the more incredible by the fact that Hughes had a whopping 200 more rides than Skelton this season, but it’s the latter that will take his place alongside Hughes, Richard Johnson and AP McCoy as the only winners of the champion jockey crown in the past 25 years.