Will it be O’Brien and Hughes for Jockey Championships?

Aisling Crowe firstly looks at who will be Irish Champion Flat Jockey 2012 and then looks at the UK championship.

The race to be crowned champion jockey in Ireland is heating up. Pat Smullen’s Killarney double on Saturday has brought him three behind leader Joseph O’Brien. However the young jockey remains odds on favourite to claim his first senior title just two years after riding a dramatic double on the final day of the season to force a three way tie for the 2010 Champion Apprentice crown.

The 19 year old currently sits top of the pile with 63 winners and the bookmakers have priced it up as a four horse race with odds available about Wayne Lordan and Johnny Murtagh. In truth, barring injuries and lengthy suspensions it all boils down to O’Brien and Smullen.

Murtagh is on the sidelines with a fractured cheekbone and when he returns to the saddle his future is uncertain as he parted company with the Aga Khan last week. The defending champion was the retained rider for all of His Highness’s horses in training in this country and it is difficult to see who could provide him with sufficient replacement ammunition to launch a title challenge at this late stage of the season. Whatever his future employment situation may be, at 41 winners the deficit is just too great for him to make up and the 25-1 offered is far too short.

Lordan would have an outside chance of reeling in Smullen and O’Brien if misfortune were to befall either of them. He currently has 53 winners to his name so far this season. Stable jockey to David Wachman, Lordan has some high class horses to chose from with plenty of the Coolmore juveniles supplying him with firepower. Probably is better than his recent run at the Curragh would suggest and Royal Ascot winner Duntle aims to add a Group One to her CV in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday. Still it is probably a bridge too far for Lordan and at odds ranging from 12-1 to 20-1 he is not one to be staking your last penny on in this particular race.

So Smullen or O’Brien will win the title. O’Brien has the might of Coolmore and Ballydoyle backing him and expect the phenomenon of Ballydoyle horses running around the country and helicopter rides to tracks, as witnessed over the summer to continue, as the race for the jockeys’ title enters its closing stages. O’Brien is 2-7 with Powers and Boylesports but just 1-6 with Bet365 for the championship.

His access to Ballydoyle’s best horses guarantees him chances of more Group One glory and O’Brien is taking on more outside rides in his quest for the title but whether he deserves to be that short is another matter. Perhaps the bookies remember how he overcame lengthy suspensions to grab a share of the apprentice title in 2010.

O’Brien’s Ballydoyle duties mean that he will be out of the country for a number of Saturdays riding in the big races in England and Europe. Smullen is in the best position to take advantage of his absence. As stable jockey to Dermot Weld he has a string of high class horses and has good relationships with outside stables. Smullen is one of the best jockeys riding at the moment and is sure to be in demand between now and the end of the season. He too will miss a few days due to overseas commitments with some of Weld’s best horses but he knows what it takes to win this race. Smullen has already won the championship six times and he is the man I would want to have on my side especially at odds of 4-1 with Bet365.

UK Jockey Championship 2012

Ryan Moore’s broken wrist has changed the complexion of the race for the British title. When the three time champion suffered the injury in a fall two weeks ago he was engaged in a titanic tussle with Kildare jockey Richard Hughes for the title. Now Hughes is 1-10 to win his first ever championship and William Buick is talking about launching a championship bid that his principal trainer, John Gosden, would rather he forgot about.

Gosden has witnessed the toll the title race takes on jockeys and would prefer that his young jockey didn’t put himself through that torture. Hughes has first hand knowledge of how grueling a struggle the race can be when he narrowly failed to win the title in 2010.

Hughes leads the standings on 116 winners with Buick languishing behind on 88. Buick would have to better his best ever seasonal tally of 106 from 2010 by a long distance if he were to stand any chance of stealing this year’s crown from Hughes.

A well deserved first title for the jockey who has battled his demons and come through the darkness looks to be his to lose.

8th Sep 2012 – Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes
(Bet until : 06 Sep 12 10:00)
Snow Fairy
St Nicholas Abbey
Imperial Monarch
Princess Highway
Famous Name
Born To Sea
Treasure Beach
Daddy Long Legs
Light Heavy
Windsor Palace
Robin Hood

William Hill Sports


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