Five front-runners for this year's Jumps Jockeys' title

Brian Hughes was crowned champion Jump jockey last season.
Brian Hughes was crowned champion Jump jockey last season.

Steve Chambers takes a look at the front runners for this year's Jumps Jockeys' Championship...

As we head towards November, the National Hunt season is clicking into gear and with the likes of the Charlie Hall Chase, Paddy Power Gold Cup and Ladbrokes Trophy on the horizon, the jumping sphere is going to serve up some mouth-watering treats over the coming weeks.

In the background of all the action on the track, there's an exciting battle brewing in the Jump Jockeys' Championship, as a host of the top riders battle it out to be crowned champion jockey, and we pick out five leading candidates for the honour here...

The race for the trophy is already well under way, with 2019/20 champion Brian Hughes topping the table, but the northern-based jockey faces some lively adversaries, and the betting in particular looks particularly lively, and it should deliver a fantastic sideshow over the coming months.

Brian Hughes - 42 wins - 4/6

Amassing a winning total of 141 winners last season, Brian Hughes has made a superb start to the season, notching up 42 winners at the time of writing, and the classy jockey is currently odds-on with the bookmakers to retain the Jump jockeys' crown. With over 250 rides under his belt already, Hughes is by far the busiest rider, and still at his dominant best in the north, Hughes is sure to maintain a steady flow of winners over the next six months.

While he has tasted Cheltenham Festival glory before, Hughes may not have the firepower that some of his rivals have at their disposal in the big races, but what Hughes lacks in quality he thrives in quantity, and in particular racking up doubles and trebles during the week. His consistency to notch several winners a week is the reason he is available at odds-on, and it's hard to not see him fighting it out for glory, injuries permitting, so Hughes certainly sets the standard.

Harry Cobden - 35 wins - 6/4

One jockey that will be having some huge rides in top Grade 1 races throughout the season is Harry Cobden, who has the luxury of riding a host of top-class Paul Nicholls-trained runners, and with the Ditcheat team having made a fine start to the season, stable jockey Cobden has made a blistering start.

With 35 wins from 143 rides amassed already, Cobden has shown glimpses that he could be a huge contender this season for the Jump jockeys' crown, and he is next in the betting at 6/4. Having had almost half the rides Hughes has had emphasises Cobden's spectacular strike rate of 24%, but while the classy rider has banged in the winners with relative ease this season, and he is likely to win a host of top notch races throughout the season, he could ultimately falter due to his lack of rides during the National Hunt campaign, and he may just come up short against Hughes.

Richard Johnson - 25 wins - 7/1

Four-time champion jockey Richard Johnson is the only other National Hunt rider to have over 200 rides this season, but with the lowest strike rate of the frontrunners (12%), Johnson's quest for a fifth crown could be something of a damp squib this season.

The legendary pilot, who racked up a multitude of second placed finishes behind AP McCoy for two decades, finally got his jockey title success in the 2015-16 season after McCoy had hung up his riding boots. Dominant for the next few seasons, Johnson was unable to make it five on the bounce last season as he came up short to Hughes, and the veteran rider may have to settle for the minor honours again, A big blow to Johnson's chances came when Aidan Coleman (33/1) was announced as stable jockey to Olly Murphy, who provided a plethora of winners to Johnson, and without those winners Johnson will find it tough to challenge.

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Sam Twiston-Davies - 25 wins - 25/1

Finishing third in last season's Jump jockeys' championship, amassing 99 winners in the process, Sam Twiston-Davies has to come into calculations when discussing this year's competition. The former Paul Nicholls stable jockey may not have the first choice of Ditcheat runners these days, but he can still pick up the odd spare from the Somerset yard, which could prove vital in his quest for top jockey glory.

A huge part of his father Nigel's training operation, Twiston-Davies will ride a host of winners for his Naunton-based Dad, while his somewhat freelance status gives him scope to ride for a number of trainers during the season. Dr Richard Newland has long been a supporter of Twiston-Davies and the pair will team up for some notable winners during the season, while the action-packed rider will notch up a number of winners elsewhere, so can't be completely discounted, despite his current 25/1 odds.

Harry Skelton - 28 wins - 33/1

Another family partnership seen entering the winners' enclosure with regularity is that of Dan and Harry Skelton, and it's the latter, who is already on 28 winners for the season, that could play a notable role in what will be a fascinating Jump jockeys' championship over the winter and spring.

Dan Skelton's strength in depth is considerable and the young trainer is likely to bang in over 100 winners this season, but brother Harry is unlikely to be sat aboard all of them. With Skelton often having runners at a few racecourses on busy days, Harry Skelton's wife Bridget Andrews is seen riding winners for her brother-in-law, so while Harry Skelton will ride most of his brother's winners, it won't be enough to challenge for the title. Skelton has picked up the odd ride for Paul Nicholls, with the pair teaming up with Politologue to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March, but that certainly won't be enough to add to his strength in depth. A trainer with a spare ride will certainly hold Skelton high on the list to pilot their horse, but ultimately Skelton will be seen predominantly on his brother's horses, and that won't provide enough winners to challenge Hughes, who can reign once again.

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