by Paolo Camera
The retirement of Tony McCoy will lead to an event in 2016 that hasn’t occurred for a generation – a new champion National Hunt jockey. But who will replace 20-time champion McCoy as the leading man over jumps?
When it comes to your horse racing betting, and making a decision on which jockey to back to be champion for the 2015/16 season, much could depend on who replaces McCoy as the retained rider for JP McManus. No decision has yet been taken on who will sport the famous green-and-gold silks next, with Davy Russell and Barry Geraghty leading contenders. Certainly, if Geraghty gets the job, he would be a strong contender for the title, given his close links with Nicky Henderson as well.
However, in the absence of an imminent answer to that question mark, there are three jockeys who will hold serious hopes of succeeding McCoy as champion jockey. We take a look at the three likely contenders here:
If patience and persistence were the key factors in deciding who will be champion jockey, then Johnson is a shoo-in to succeed McCoy. Certainly no-one would begrudge Johnson the opportunity to finally be champion.
Johnson has finished runner-up to McCoy in the title race almost as many times as his great rival has finished as the top jockey over jumps. Johnson, in the absence of McCoy, not only has the chance to succeed McCoy as champion, but also pass the 3000 winner mark over the coming 12 months. He is well supported with plenty of winners from the Philip Hobbs yard and he has enough mounts with other trainers to put him in a position to win the title.
Given that an extra 800-900 rides will become available due to McCoy’s retirement, there is scope for the next champion to win the title with more than 200 winners. Johnson has plenty of big-race victories on his CV, having won the Gold Cup on Looks Like Trouble and the Champion Hurdle on Rooster Booster, but adding champion jockey to his resume would be fitting.
Being champion jockey runs in the family as Tom’s dad Peter won the title eight times and was the main man over jumps before McCoy’s emergence on the scene. Scudamore is the only other leading rider, apart from McCoy, to boast a strike rate of better than 20 per cent for the 2014/15 season, and he has a strong alliance with David Pipe to ensure he has a regular supply of winners.
Like Johnson, he will be looking to pick up some extra mounts now that McCoy is riding off into the sunset. A good tactical judge, Scudamore has been continually on the rise over the past few years and he has formed an excellent bond with high-class horses such as Dynaste. He also has a tremendous work ethic and looks primed to mount a strong title challenge.
Twiston-Davies doesn’t have the experience of the other two jockeys, but he has spent the entire season jousting with them for the right to finish runner-up to McCoy in the title race. As stable jockey to Paul Nicholls, Twiston-Davies is not short on either quality or quantity when it comes to horses.
As you would expect for a young jockey, there have been blips this season, but he is bound to have learned plenty from the experience of his first year as Nicholls’ No.1 jockey. He helped Nicholls to mop up several big races and was a key figure in transforming Dodging Bullets into a Queen Mother Champion Chase winner. Twiston-Davies also has the backing of his father Nigel when it comes to regular rides and he looks certain to be a champion jockey at some point in the future.