Sandown Park on Saturday was the scene of one of the most emotional days in recent sporting memory as the legendary AP McCoy hung up his silks for the final time. The jockey retired from the saddle having picked up 20 successive jockeys title and while we are unlikely to see the like of him again, we can start looking to the future.
This upcoming National Hunt season will be the first in around two decades that we can speculate on who will be Champions Jockey with any number of men all hoping to claim the title that has previously been dominated by one man. It will be fascinating to see which jockeys, and how many of them, will look to get the new campaign off to a flying start with more than one eye on succeeding McCoy as the Champion.
Main Contenders for 2015/16 Champion Jockey Title
The betting market for the Champion Jockey is a fascinating one in the wake of McCoy's retirement with plenty of unknowns about some of the leading contenders. The majority of them have not had even a sniff of winning the title before so which of them will be prepared to put in the miles every day of the week to rack up those all important winners, which is what made McCoy so great, remains something of a mystery.
The obvious man to start with is Richard Johnson (13/8) who is the favourite in the betting and it would be hard to begrudge him a first title. Johnson has been runner-up to McCoy on no less than 16 occasions during his career and perhaps aptly, he was rode the winner of the McCoy's last ever race at Sandown on Saturday.
Few men are as popular as Johnson in the sport and based on recent numbers, he is statistically the most likely winner of the title. Johnson had 861 rides during the 2014/15 season which in fact was more than McCoy and comfortably clear of his likely rivals this term which proves he is more than happy to put in the hard yards. Add to that the fact Johnson may not have many more years left in the sport and surely he will be desperate to pick up the title at least once before he too hangs up the whip.
Johnson is the deserved favourite and has the backing of a number of top trainers but he will have to hold off a number of younger jockeys who will be snapping at his heels.
One of those is certainly Sam Twiston-Davies (5/2) who has grown into the role as the retainer for Paul Nicholls and he of course can supply him with plenty of top horses. Twiston-Davies rode eight less winners than Richard Johnson last season and with the Champion Trainer behind him, it is only a matter of when and not if he will become Champion Jockey given his young age.
Tom Scudamore has been on a steep upward curve for the past couple of years and he has plenty of trainers backing him which could well see him emerge as genuine title contender this season. He is of course the main jock for the powerful David Pipe yard, while he also has regular rides for a number of smaller stables which could stand him in good stead. Scudamore rode 150 winners for the first time last season to finish just three behind Johnson and at 7/1, he may well offer some value in the latest Jockeys Championship Betting.
There are a number of candidates to consider outside of the main three in the betting who may well offer some sort of chance at a juicy price. Barry Geraghty is a class act and can never be ruled out, especially if he takes over as the main jockey for JP McManus, but he had just 239 rides last season and is unlikely to want to commit to such a challenge on a day-to-day basis. Geraghty has been happy to concentrate on quality, not quantity, over the past few years with his season centred around the big Festivals like Cheltenham and Aintree, among others.
One other jockey we do want to mention is Brian Hughes who has been firing in the winners all over the place up north of late. Northern Jockeys don't tend to win the Jockeys title but he rode 106 winners last season and appears to be gaining some momentum which means that 50/1 about him winning the jockeys championship may seem pretty big in a few months time.
The bottom line is that we are potentially in for a thrilling title race for the first time in many years. Jump Racing will of course suffer slightly in the wake of AP McCoy's retirement but a proper Jockeys Championship should add an nice little angle to the sport. Richard Johnson is certainly the popular choice and most would want him to lift the title having spent so long in the shadow of his great friend but it won't be easy with the whipper snappers chasing him all the way.
Sam Twiston-Davies will be right in the mix if he stays fit due to his alliance with Paul Nicholls and picking up spares for his father while Tom Scudamore is improving all the time and could also go close. Brian Hughes is in with a decent shout up north but in truth the whole sport is surely behind Johnson at the moment and he will be desperate to step onto the podium at Sandown in April 2016 with a jockeys title in the bag.
2015/16 National Hunt Jockeys Championship Odds - Click To Bet