The History of the British Jump Jockey Championship

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Today I am going to take a look at the history of the British jump jockey championship and a little look at this years competition, so without further ado let’s get right into it.


The British Jump Jockey Championship’s inception was in 1900. For the first 25 year, the award was given to the jockey who had ridden the most winners during a calendar year, however beginning in 1926, this changed to the way we see it today, the award would start going to the jockey who had ridden the most winners during a season.

Surprisingly, it was not until the 2015-2016 season that the Champion Jockey won prize money, with the 2015-2016 Champion Richard Johnson receiving £15,000 and smaller prizes going to the next 4 on the leader board. From 2016 any Champion Jockey receives a new trophy designed by Asprey and chosen by the award winning Champion Jockey Sir AP McCoy after the previous one was gifted to Sir AP McCoy upon his retirement.

This years title race will be decided between Saturday 1st May 2021 and Saturday 23rd April 2022.


Now let’s take a look at some winners! Please bare in mind any winner before 1925 was within a calendar year – beyond that is in a season.

The first ever winner in 1900 was H. S Sidney 52 wins, he was also an amateur at the time of winning the title. We then see Frank Mason win for the first time in 1901 with 58 wins, he then won it again in 1902 (67 wins), 1904 (59 wins), 1905 (73 wins), 1906 (58 wins) and 1907 (59 wins).

If we then skip forward a little in 1920 Fred Rees won with 64 wins before winning again multiple times. 1921 (65 wins), 1923 (64 wins), 1924 (108 wins – the first time a jockey hit a century of wins) and again in the 1926-1927 season with 59 wins.

The next 5 seasons were dominated by Billy Stott who firstly won in the 1927-1928 season with 88 wins, 1928-1929 with 76 wins, 1929-1930 with 77 wins, 1930-1931 with 81 wins and in 1931-1932 with 77 wins.

Gerry Wilson was the next jockey to dominate when winning 7 times in 9 seasons starting in 1932-1933 with 61 wins, 1933-1934 with 56 wins, 1934-1935 with 73 wins, 1935-1936 with 57 wins, 1936-1937 with 45 wins, 1937-1938 with 59 wins then again in the 1940-1941 season with 22 wins.

The two seasons in between Gerry Wilson’s victories were won by Fred Rimell, in 1938-1939 with 61 wins and then in 1939-1940 with 22 wins.

Racing was suspended in the 1942-1943 season as well as the 1943-1944 season before returning in the 1944-1945 season where it was actually a draw with Frenchie Nicholson and Fred Rimell both finishing the season on 15 wins. Fred Rimell then won it on his own in the 1945-1946 season with 54 wins.

Skipping forward a few years Tim Molony won 4 years in a row starting with the 1948-1949 season with 50 wins, 1949-1950 with 95 wins, 1950-1951 with 83 wins, 1951-1952 with 99 wins.

Fred Winter then won for the first time in 1952-1953 with 121 wins, before winning again in 1955-1956 with 74 wins, 1956-1957 with 80 wins and 1957-1958 with 82 wins.

If we skip forward a little bit in 1968-1969 Terry Biddlecombe and Bob Davies both finished with 77 wins and sharing the title.

Other winners include John Francome in the 1975-1976 season with 96 wins, 1978-1979 with 95 wins, 1980-1981 with 105 wins, before sharing the title in 1981-1982 with Peter Scudamore after both finishing with 120 wins. He then continued to win the title in 1982-1983 with 106 wins, 1983-1984 with 131 wins and again in 1984-1985 with 101 wins.

In between John Francome’s reign, Jonjo O’Neill won the title twice, firstly in 1977-1978 with 149 wins and again in 1979-1980 with 115 wins.

Starting in the 1985-1986 season we see Peter Scudamore’s reign begin with 91 wins, followed up in 1986-1987 with 123 wins, 1987-1988 with 132 wins, 1988-1989 with 221 wins (setting a new record for most wins and the first time a jockey had 200 or more winners in a season), again in 1989-1990 with 170 wins, 1990-1991 with 141 wins and again in 1991-1992 with 175 wins.

The next 3 seasons were won by Richard Dunwoody with 173 wins in the 1992-1993 season, 197 wins in the 1993-1994 season and finally with 160 wins in the 1994-1995 season.

In the 1995-1996 season the record breaking reign of Sir AP McCoy began:

1995-1996: 175 wins
1996-1997: 190 wins
1997-1998: 253 wins (breaking Peter Scudamore’s record of most wins in a season)
1998-1999: 186 wins
1999-2000: 245 wins
2000-2001: 191 wins
2001-2002: 289 wins (breaking his own record of most wins in a season)
2002-2003: 258 wins
2003-2004: 209 wins
2004-2005: 200 wins
2005-2006: 178 wins
2006-2007: 184 wins
2007-2008: 140 wins
2008-2009: 186 wins
2009-2010: 195 wins
2010-2011: 218 wins
2011-2012: 199 wins
2012-2013: 185 wins
2013-2014: 218 wins
2014-2015: 231 wins

When Sir AP McCoy retired, we then see Richard Johnson win 4 consecutive titles starting in 2015-2016 with 235 wins, in 2016-2017 with 180 wins, 2017-2018 with 176 wins and in 2018-2019 with 200 wins.

The final two winners were Brian Hughes in 2019-2020 with 141 wins and in the 2020-2021 season Harry Skelton with 152 wins.


So some records within the race. The jockey with the most titles and most consecutive titles is Sir AP McCoy who won 20 times consecutively between 1995 and 2015.

The jockey with the most wins in one season is also Sir AP McCoy who won 289 times in the 2001-2002 season.

The jockey who came second the most times is Richard Johnson who finished second behind Sir AP McCoy before finally winning the title after Sir AP McCoy’s retirement.


So onto this years title. (All odds are via PaddyPower and are correct at the time of writing this post and all winner figures so far are also correct at the time of writing this post – 25/05/2021 at 22:15)

The current favourite at Evens is Brian Hughes who has currently had 135 rides with 23 wins. A strike rate of 17%.

The second favourite is Harry Skelton at 11/8 who has had 52 rides with 14 wins. A strike rate of 27%.

The third is Harry Cobden at 4/1 who has had 15 rides with 4 wins. A strike rate of 27%.

The rest are 33/1 or bigger, including Sam Twiston-Davies, Aidan Coleman and Nico de Boinville all at 33/1 and Sean Bowen, David Bass and Tom Scudamore at 66/1 and Bryony Frost at 100/1.

The season has only just began so there is a long way ahead of us and the current standings will of course change once the winter comes around and more jumps horses are running. However I do think it’s going to be another exciting renewal. Last years came down to the wire between Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton and with Harry Cobden in the running and hopefully free this time around it could be a quite exciting one to watch. For me I think Harry Skelton could retain the title, but it’ll be too close to call.


I hope you all enjoyed this one and I will see you all Saturday at 11am for a new post!

An Interview with Aidan Coleman

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Before we get into today’s post I want to mention Lorna Brooke as this is my first post since hearing about her tragic death. My thoughts are with her family, friends and anyone who knew her personally. It’s a heart-breaking time for the sport and anyone involved in the sport in any capacity. Jockey’s put their lives and bodies on the line every single day and people should appreciate that more than they do.


On to today’s post… I got the chance to speak with the Grand National 100/1 runner up, Aidan Coleman this week and after an incredible effort in the Grand National I am very grateful to get the chance to have a chat with him about all things racing, so let’s just jump right in. I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I have!


Me: You’ve rode some incredible horses in some incredible races such as Paisley Park, Put The Kettle On, Epatante and so many more, but what is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Aidan: Erm, I suppose it’s tricky, as I say, you’ve alluded to some great ones there. I suppose any of Paisley’s 3 Grade 1’s were special. Obviously the first one was our first Grade 1 which was brilliant because it took so long to do so that was special. His next one was the Stayers Hurdle at the Festival, he was one of the bankers so that was amazing, then also his last Grade 1 in the Long Walk just before Christmas, that was brilliant for a few different reasons, in the fact he was on a comeback trail after what happened to him in the previous Stayers Hurdle, so it was great and very satisfying to get him back and how he did it as well, he just pulled it out of the fire late on and that was very satisfying and a great thrill to win the race.

Me: The one question I think everyone wants me to ask is how is Paisley Park now after being pulled up at Aintree?

Aidan: Yeah, he’s great. I just looked after him, he ran brilliantly at Cheltenham and although he’d been showing the right signs at home, you never know until you get on the track and he was just feelings the affects of Cheltenham basically, so we looked after him and I have no doubt he’ll come back in great form next year and get back winning again.

Me: And we have to speak about what happened just over a week ago when you came second in the Grand National to Rachael Blackmore, which is brilliant in itself, but how did you really feel knowing you was so close to winning it for the first time?

Aidan: Terrible. Absolutely gutting. I’ve never been so down after a race as I was that. Look, its great to be involved in the race. I rode Henry’s other one and he had the 1-2 so it’s great to be a part of it, delighted for everybody but from a personal point of view to get that close and be doing so well turning in and nearly thinking you’re going to win the National and not, it’s very tough to take.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose and why?

Aidan: Kauto Star. He was just brilliant, from 2 miles to 3 miles 2 Gold Cup and longevity as well. Definitely Kauto Star.

Me: One question I like to raise to the jockey’s that I speak with is the discussion surrounding banning the whip, what are your opinions on that?

Aidan: I think it shouldn’t be a discussion. I can see where people are coming from but it’s not really a whip, it’s foam cushioned, it’s foam padded, it does not affect a horse, there’s no element of pain. It’s used very much as a safety measure. You have a lot of people say about the whole horse welfare thing but I think without the whip you’d have a lot more horse welfare accidents to be honest. I think it’s essential and it does not harm the horses.

Me: You’re now Olly Murphy’s number 1 stable jockey, can you tell us a little bit about how that partnership came to be?

Aidan: I suppose, Richard Johnson was his number 1 jockey, he didn’t have a stable jockey then over the years he’s built up a really exciting team and an ever growing team as well and it was getting to a stage where he needed a little bit more continuity. I think it was a hard decision for him because it was nothing to do with Richard – it was the opposite – it was nothing to do with Richard’s riding, he just had too many commitments basically. His team and the quality of horses he was building, he needed some more consistency. And as Richard was so popular and so good, that wasn’t always the case, so he needed someone more available.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Aidan: Erm, well it would always be Richard Johnson to be fair so if we did this a couple of weeks ago it would be easy. But look, I have a lot of respect for everybody who does the game over a long period of time. I think Richard was the ultimate professional and ultimate role model and I think especially with how things are these days with young lads – they don’t really understand it all. They’re very nice kids but it’s just a different generation, they don’t really get what it takes to do the job over a period of time. I think anyone who rides over jumps deserves a lot of respect but the years they ride and the more they ride, the more respect they get because they’ve done the hard graft. The more you do it, the more respect you deserve because it’s not easy.

Me: And on from that a little bit, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another jockey, trainer or owner?

Aidan: I suppose it’s not really advice for racing, it’s just advice in general… Just work hard and try your best, I think that’s the same in any walk of life and racing is the same. You get out what you put in, if you work hard and conduct yourself in the right way in any walk of life, the rest will fall into place.

Me: What is the one race you haven’t won that you would love to?

Aidan: The Grand National. Very very easy. The Grand National.

Me: If you could choose a horse to watch for the next season or two, what horse would you choose?

Aidan: That’s a good question. But if you’re watching it then you want to be riding it if you get what I mean? So I’m going to have to dodge that question I think Zoe.

Me: You’ve rode for some massive owners within racing including JP McManus in the famous green and gold silks, do you ever feel more pressure when you’re riding in silks like those that are so well known within the sport?

Aidan: No, simple as. Look its great to ride any good horse in any race and every owner is very important and the riding fee is the same so they all deserve for us to go and try our best. But on the other side, when you’re riding for owners like JP that you mentioned and some other big owners, these people have been in the game so long that ultimately, it’s not less pressure because you still have to go out and try your best but if things go wrong, they have been there and it’s happened and they’re very very understanding and you know, it’s almost, they’ve just been in the game so long and understand what can go wrong.

Me: What’s your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Aidan: I suppose it has to come to Cheltenham because it’s one of those places where it really matters, the Festival is magic. I suppose if you’re going midweek, I really like Uttoxeter, I do quite well around there. There’s not many tracks I don’t like, I’m quite happy to go to most of them, there’s a few that I won’t name that I’d happily never go to again, but because it’s nothing personal, nothing against the tracks or those that run them I won’t name them, it’s more that I just don’t like riding around them, but most tracks are very well run and as long as you’ve got good rides then you’re happy to go.

Me: And obviously over the past 12 months there hasn’t been any crowds allowed, personally have you found it easier or harder?

Aidan: I suppose at first it was a bit odd and we had to get used to it, but we’d just came back from 3 months without racing so we were just happy to be there and that was fine. I suppose after that you just get used to it like you get used to anything else in life don’t you? But we will welcome them back and we can’t wait for them to come back.

Me: With the end of the season being so close and the Jockey Championship being so competitive this year, who do you think will be crowned this weekend, Harry Skelton or Brian Hughes?

Aidan: Look, it’s very important for Brian to have a good Perth, it’s up north, he’s got 3 days at Perth to hopefully have a few winners. It’s very hard, I get on well with the both lads, they’re both top class. I’m being very diplomatic here, but it is very hard and I’ll be gutted for whoever loses because they don’t deserve to lose, whoever that may be Harry or Brian, there’s gonna be one of them… A draw would be fantastic to be fair, that would be the ultimate. It would be fantastic to be fair but it’s not usually how these things work, so yeah, it’s gonna be hard for whoever doesn’t win. Look, Brian’s been champion before, this will be Harry’s first go, but I don’t think Brian Hughes will only be Champion Jockey once in his career, I think he’ll have a few more championships before he retires and probably the same for Harry as well.

Me: What is your best advice for a young person with a passion they want to follow whether that be in racing or otherwise?

Aidan: I think it goes back to the best advice I’ve been given… Just go for it. Work hard and try your best and conduct yourself in the right way. You need to have a good attitude and try your best and you’ll get something out of it.


As always, I want to thank Aidan for taking time out of his day to speak with me. He was very honest, open and informative during our call and that makes my job as an interviewer so much easier. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Aidan and getting a real insight to all things racing through his eyes and it is always brilliant to hear a horse like Paisley Park is okay and healthy back home. I have the upmost respect for jockeys, they put their bodies on the line every single day for the sport and I think we all take that for granted when we shouldn’t.

I will see you all Saturday morning at 11am for my next post!

Harry Skelton vs Brian Hughes

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is a quick look back at one of the most exciting Champion Jockey season’s we have had in a very long time, so with just one week to go, I wanted to briefly have a look at the season so far.

The Jumps Jockey Championship started on July 1st 2020 and ends next Saturday on April 24th 2021 and right now it’s probably the closest it’s been in my lifetime with Harry Skelton and Brian Hughes fighting it out neck and neck for the last few weeks and it’s been a pretty exciting situation to watch, I have no idea who will win but it’s been great for racing fans to see it so close for a change.

I won’t go through every single win that both Harry and Brian have had this season, I think I’d be here all year, so I have had a look at some of the bigger wins they have both had and I think we should just jump right in.

So, first up I’m going to start with Harry Skelton and the bet365 Hurdle Grade 2 (Registered As The West Yorkshire Hurdle) at Wetherby on October 31st 2020 where Harry won on Roksana as the 13/8 favourite by 8 and 1/2 lengths for brother Dan Skelton.

Two weeks later on November 14th 2020 Harry won the Karndean Designflorring Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) (GBB Race) on Elle Est Belle (16/5) at Cheltenham for brother Dan Skelton. The race was (potentially controversially) declared a deadheat with joint winner Ishkhara Lady (11/2) for Sean Bowen and Harry Fry.

One week later on November 21st 2020 Brian Hughes won the Betfair Supports Safer Gambling Week Handicap Chase (Class 2) at Haydock on Snow Leopardess (9/2J) for Charlie Longsdon by 1/2 length to Commodore.

Eight days later on November 29th 2020, Brian then won the Houghton Mares’ Chase (Listed Race) (GBB Race) at Carlisle on My Old Gold (4/1) for Nicky Richards, winning by 1 and 1/2 lengths to Chilli Filli.

We then move forward to December 5th where we had a rather successful day for both jockeys with Brian Hughes heading to Aintree and Harry Skelton heading to Sandown. First of we had Harry Skelton win the 1:50, the Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) on Allmankind (2/1F) beating Hitman (11/4) by 2 and 1/2 lengths for brother Dan Skelton. He then won the 2:25 – Betfair Tingle Creek Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) on Politologue (11/8F) for Paul Nicholls beating stable mate Greaneteen (5/2) for Harry Cobden by 7 lengths.

15 minutes later at 2:40, Brian Hughes then wins the William Hill Many Clouds Chase (Grade 2) with Lake View Lad (16/1) for Nick Alexander, beating Santini (13/8F) by 1 length.

Moving forward a couple of weeks and on December 18th, Harry Skelton wins the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Ascot on My Drogo (9/1) beating 2/1 favourite Llandinabo Lad by 2 and 3/4 lengths, again for Dan Skelton.

The following day on December 19th, Brian Hughes then wins the Betfair Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (Class 2) on Sam’s Adventure (14/1) for Brian Ellison, beating Sojourn the 11/4 joint favourite by 4 lengths.

One week later on boxing day 2020, Harry then wins the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) at Kempton on Shan Blue (7/4F) for Dan Skelton, beating The Big Breakaway (16/5). Following that up with another win at Kempton the following day December 27th when he won the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase (Grade 2) on Nube Negra (20/1) for Dan Skelton, beating Evens favourite Altior by 3 and 1/2 lengths.

Moving into 2021, we have Harry Skelton kicking us off on January 23rd when he won the Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Ascot on Roksana (8/15F) for Dan Skelton, beating Magic Of Light (9/2) by 8 lengths.

On February 7th Brian Hughes headed to Musselburgh where he won the bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle (Listed Race) on Fiveandtwenty (6/4F) for Donald McCain beating Historic Heart (5/1) by 4 lengths.

Harry Skelton then had a busy two days when he won the Bet At racingtv.com Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) at Exeter on Wilde About Oscar (16/5) for Dan Skelton on the 14th of February beating Evens favourite The Glancing Queen by 7 and 1/2 lengths. Followed up by 2 quick wins at Warwick the following day on February 15th when winning the Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) on Allmankind (4/7F) for Dan Skelton, beating eventual Cheltenham Festival winner Sky Pirate (3/1) by 14 lengths. Followed by the next race on the card, the St Marys Land Warwick Mares’ Hurdle (Listed Race) on Molly Ollys Wishes (7/2) for Dan Skelton, actually beating Brian Hughes in second place on the Evens favourite Paul’s Saga by 15 lengths.

On February 20th 2021, Harry then won the “My Oddsboost” on Betfair Swinley Chase (Listed Race) at Ascot on Captain Chaos (10/1) for Dan Skelton, by a head to Regal Encore (12/1).

The following day, Brian Hughes headed to Market Rasen where he won the Ballymore Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) on Minella Drama (13/8F) for Donald McCain, beating Stoner’s Choice (9/4) by 3 lengths.

Swiftly moving into March, on the 6th Harry Skelton won the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Kelso on My Drogo (2/1F) for Dan Skelton beating Do Your Job (10/1) by 9 and 1/2 lengths. One week later on the 13th of March, Harry then won the Paddy Power Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) at Sandown on Langer Dan (5/1) for Dan Skelton beating Miss Heritage (8/1) by 4 and 1/2 lengths.

We then move into April and the final month for both jockey’s to get the wins on the board ready to be crowned Champion Jockey. We start off on April 8th when Harry Skelton won the SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) at Aintree on Protektorat (17/2) for Dan Skelton, beating The Shunter (7/2) by 3 and 3/4 lengths. Followed up on the 10th of April when winning the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) on 5/4 favourite My Drogo, again beating Brian Hughes on the second placed Minella Drama (12/1) by 9 and 1/2 lengths.

Also want to include here that Harry Skelton finished 6th in the Grand National on Blaklion (50/1) on the 10th of April for brother Dan Skelton, making them the first British trained horse to cross the line.

We then head into the April meeting at Cheltenham where both jockey’s had a pretty successful time. On April 14th, Harry Skelton won the 1:30 Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) on 4/6 favourite Faivoir for Dan Skelton, winning by 2 and 3/4 lengths to Witness Protection (8/1). Harry then won the 2:40 Kingston Stud Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) on 7/2 joint favourite Proschema for Dan Skelton, winning by 6 and 1/2 length to Winds of Fire (9/1). Moving on to the 4:25 Weatherite Handicap Chase (Class 2) where Brian Hughes pulled one back when winning on Domaine De L’Isle (6/1) for Sean Curran, beating Coo Star Sivola (5/1) by 1 and 1/2 lengths.

The following day on April 15th, Brian Hughes claws another one back when winning the Citipost Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) on Bannixtown Glory (9/1) for Donald McCain, beating Harry Skelton on the 5/2 favourite Eglantine Du Seuil by 1 and 3/4 lengths.

Yesterday both Brian and Harry headed to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National meeting and in doing so, Harry Skelton has now pulled ahead after winning the first race on Stepney Causeway (4/9F) for Dan Skelton, beating Brian on Mrs Hyde (15/8) by 19 lengths and also the last race on I’d Better Go Now (11/2J), again for Dan Skelton, beating Manetti (33/1) by 3/4 of a length.

So, all in all we start today with Harry Skelton on 143 and Brian Hughes on 139 with just 8 days of racing left. It’s still very very close and either could win so I am very excited to see how this final week goes. Both have been going for it and picking up as many spare rides as possible so I think this last week could be very interesting.


Personally, I would love to see Harry Skelton win the Jockey Championship for a couple of reasons. He is based very close to where I live, so it would be nice to see a local jockey win, but also because the majority of Harry’s rides have came from his brother Dan Skelton and as far as I’m aware (correct me if I’m wrong), the last time a jockey won the Jockey Championship with the majority of their rides coming from one stable was when AP McCoy won it whilst riding for Martin Pipe, so for me that is a huge achievement. I won’t take anything away from Brian Hughes, but I feel like he has the opportunity to ride a lot more horses for a lot more trainers and personally, I think if Harry Skelton had the opportunity to ride as many horses as Brian Hughes has then he would be a mile ahead in the title race. The fact that Brian has had over 200 more rides than Harry and Harry has still been fighting it out at the top shows just how incredible Harry’s season has been. Overall, it’s been a huge season for the Skelton team and I think that Harry winning the Champion Jockey title would just be the best way to end it. Again, I want to reiterate I am not taking anything away from Brian Hughes and if he wins it then he deserves it, but for me, I would just love to see Harry Skelton do it.

I have found looking back over this season actually really interesting and I hope everyone else has found it interesting to read too. If there are any similar posts like this you would like to see me do for particular jockeys, trainers, owners, horses etc then please do let me know over on Twitter (https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx) and I will try my best to have a look into it because I find researching these posts so interesting and from my viewing figures for similar posts like this, they have seemed to be pretty popular.

I actually have an extra post coming tomorrow morning at 11am where I look into the history of the Scottish Grand National ahead of tomorrow afternoons renewal, including some winning trends, facts and figures which may help you pick your winner, so keep your eyes out for that one! See you then!

An Interview with Richard Pitman

Good Evening!

I hope you’ve all a brilliant final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Today I am super excited to bring you an interview with Richard Pitman. I had the honour of speaking to Richard this week about all things racing including that race Crisp vs Red Rum. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to Richard and I hope you all enjoy!


Me: You obviously won some incredible races in your career, but what was your favourite race, win or lose?

Richard: I’m afraid it’s pretty obvious, but it was 40 years before you were born, it was Crisp in the 1973 Grand National finishing second to Red Rum. And the reason being, Aintree is just a magical cauldron and for him to have made the running and jump the fences as if they were hurdles, until all the steam ran out… He won the Queen Mother Champion Chase which is run at the Cheltenham Festival and he won by about 20 lengths and then just to nearly win the national, it was an amazing ride.

Me: The one question I wanted to ask about that Grand National was how did you feel at the time when you got beat by Red Rum and did those feelings change over the years when you realised just how special Red Rum went on to be?

Richard: Well, that’s a good question. You see, the good Champion jockey’s… I was second in the jockey Championship twice but didn’t win it… The good Champion jockey’s, McCoy, Francome, Scudamore, Dunwoody, Dicky Johnson – Their tunnel vision, like Usain Bolt in running races. But I was more of a cavalier, I just enjoyed riding so although it was devastating to be caught – and I could hear him coming, it was fast ground so you could here his hoofed feet and he was a high blower so every time he exhaled his nostril flaps, so it got louder and louder but it was only the last two strides that he swept past me. So utter devastation but only a minute to recover and be elated because it was a ride money couldn’t buy, I had earnt it and it was my ride. Okay, I’ll be blamed for being beaten for many many things. Going on was one of them but that was our plan. He was such a bold jumper, in behind 40 horses he’d have jumped on someone else’s back so that’s what we had to do. I made a wrong decision taking my hand off the reigns to give him a whip half way up the running. You know, he was a big horse, tired, gone… I should’ve kept hold of his head, but there you are, you can’t go back. I remember every blade of grass in that race but I admire Red Rum… So much, you couldn’t not. I rode him for the BBC, I used to do lots of stunts afterwards around Aintree in the build up to the National, so I rode Red Rum with two other horses on the flat track there and Ginger McCain who was a larger than life, micky taking man, said “now then Pitman, you seen his backside in 73, you can look through his ears now lad” and gave me the leg up.

Me: Another question following on from that, I wanted to ask was how did you feel when history essentially repeated itself when your son Mark Pitman got beat on Garrison Savannah by Seagram in a similar fashion in the 1991 Grand National?

Richard: Yeah, good question! Well Mark was heavier than me, I was always a chubby little fella who had trouble with my weight, but Mark was taller and had more trouble. He used to be in his sauna from 5am to 7am in the dead of winter in his garage and then go out and ride 5 or 6 lots on the gallops in the freezing cold, it was really hard work and he was a good jockey. His mother would have hated it but he and I did discuss how to do things and I’m sure she would have done with him many times. And he asked for my advice and I said “Mark you won’t believe how quickly horses lose their petrol up the running if stamina comes into play.” And at elbow he hadn’t gone for Garrison Savannah and I put my coat on as I was working for the BBC and Bill Smith was with me, I said “Bill the replay is yours I’m going to see Mark come in” and as I got my coat on he said “you better turn around, the picture has changed” and as he got to the elbow, again he just flattened out. Once they go at that distance and lose their stamina, they just walk. He was beaten by Seagram who was very cleverly rode by Nigel Hawke coming wide and not challenging close up so not to galvanise Garrison but Garrison had gone. But he rode a great race.

Plus, he had won the Gold Cup 3 weeks before and two hours later was in Cheltenham general hospital with internal injuries and a fractured pelvis, but rode 3 weeks later in the National. But that was nothing to do with him getting beat because he was on plenty of pain killers, but I was so proud of him… I still am.

Me: If you could ride any horse currently in training now, who would you choose and why?

Richard: Aw, there are so many aren’t there? I think Cloth Cap is the biggest certainty we’ve seen in the National for years, providing nothing goes wrong. If you look at the previous videos of McCoy on Clan Royal going down to Becher’s for the second time, five or six clear, on the bridle, two loose horses run across him and force him into the wing of the fence. I mean… It’s such a race where you don’t know what’s going to happen. But Cloth Cap at Jonjo’s, I love the way he jumps, he goes on the ground, he gallops with his head quite low, not overly low, but quite low – which I love. It means a horse is looking at the bottom of the fence, rather than head up, fighting the jockey. So Cloth Cap for me, is the one horse I’d love to ride.

Me: And from your point of view, you retired many years ago, but how do you feel about the discussions to ban the whip? And how important was the whip for yourself when you were riding?

Richard: Right, now… I should not have used my whip on Crisp half way up the running at Aintree, it unbalanced him, I took my hands off the reigns. I think it did more harm than good. And I challenge anyone, anywhere to come up with a video showing me where the use of a whip has stopped a horse from running out or being the aide it’s meant to be. Of course, it’s meant to be used to encourage, but to me it puts a lot of horses off. That’s why I love watching the flat as well, the ground is so much better and there is a lot less use of the whip. I’d agree, let them carry it, but only give them a slap down the shoulder for encouragement, I would not want them to take their hand off the reigns or give them one behind the saddle. I am very strong on that and yet people say to me “but you used it” – Yes I used it, but not in excess. Fred Winter, my trainer would always say “you can give them two, but don’t give them three.”

Me: What was your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Richard: Probably Cheltenham because I was born there. I could always see the course and I have a field with my sister now on Cleeve Hill looking down into the racecourse. Cheltenham really grabs me and I rode a lot of winners there. I got beaten and should’ve won two gold cups but didn’t, so… Cheltenham is really mine.

Me: A lot of jockey’s don’t go into the TV side of things, what made you make the decision to do so?

Richard: Well, I’d been offered the job as a paddock commentator for the BBC 2 years before I retired but then I had 5 of the best horses in the country, now you wouldn’t give 5 horses up for anything. I didn’t care what the future was. But two years later I was offered the job again and if I turned it down a second time, it wouldn’t be available so I went to Fred Winter on the muck hill, where we were making the muck hill tidy in the morning, and I said to him this is the situation and he said for the first time ever John Francome shared the job with me, he was 10 years young and he was good but I was welcome to ride half the horses as long as I wanted to. But there was only 2 of my good horses left by then and I said to him would you run one in the Grand National, he said no his legs are dodgy so he wouldn’t subject him to it. So I said “well in that case, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me” I shook his hand and joined BBC.

Me: What was your favourite or most memorable moment whilst working with BBC?

Richard: Well, I was involved for 35 years so there was so many. But Bob Champion and Aldaniti was a fairytale that will be hard to match. And if Aldaniti hadn’t won that day, the second was ridden by John Thorne who was 54 years old, he owned the stallion, owned the mare, bred it, trained it and rode it. So that would have been another fairy story. Another was the void race for two false starts and then of course the one that was put off due to the bomb scare and ran on the Monday.

But the two false starts one was just incredible, I finished my build up to the race, handed over to Peter O’Sullevan and then there’s these two false starts and a group of horses carried on going. The producer said to me ‘Pitman get off your backside and get out there and find out what can happen’ so I ran out of my little pod in the paddock, slipped on the scaffolding boards and I was winded, but we had floor managers so my guy, a great big ex rugby player, picked me up with one hand and pushed me through the crowd, knocking people out of the way as I was trying to get my breath back. I said to the starter “Keith, the whole world is watching, Hong Kong, Australia, America… What can happen?” and he said “I can tell you exactly what will happen. Only the 9 that didn’t fall or complete one circuit can run.” So we’d got the news. I thought I’d done a good job, so I was wondering back and the producer said “okay Pitman that was good but find a steward.” The stewards area that day was an area four ladders high up on some scaffolding and at the bottom was a soldier with a sword and big feathery hat on. He said “you can’t come up here son, it’s stewards only” and I said “I’m sorry, we’re BBC and they’ve asked us to come up to give us the news.” Well when we got one camera and sound man up there and knocked on the door of the porter cabin, out came Patrick Hibbert-Foy who was the stewards secretary he said “yes Pitman what do you want?” and I said “well Patrick, the whole world is watching and we need to know because the next race in Hong Kong can’t run until we’ve got the result of this one.” And he said “You will be told when the people on the racecourse are announced and told first. They’re the paying customers.” And I said “we’ve got 600 million people around the world” and he said “You’ll be told.” And that’s how they viewed it in those days. It was quite an amazing race, I won’t go through it but it had to be stopped. It was the second false start and it had to be stopped. And they put cones across the front of the chair fence which is the 15th and one of the officials stood in the middle of the fence in the cones and waved his arms trying to stop them, but the 9 guys who had carried on thought it was anti’s trying to make a demonstration and they galloped over the chap and through the cones and went around again. And of course once you had gone around once you couldn’t go again if it was raced later on. But it was so exciting.

And the bomb scare, well that was hairy. We kept losing TV positions one by one as they evacuated us along with everyone else and the last man standing was Jim McGrath commentating from a scaffolding very very high down by Becher’s Brook and he spoke for 28 minutes without drawing breath whilst mayhem was going on up in the stands.

Me: How much do you think racing has changed ssince you were riding?

Richard: Oh 360 degrees! I mean, we didn’t ride on Sunday’s, we didn’t have evening racing, we had 2 months off in the summer to recuperate. The styles have changed, we rode longer, we had some pretty good stylists in our day but before that they rode full length, the style has changed. The quality of racing has changed, we’ve had plenty of Gold Cup winners run in the Grand National, but the depth has changed. When I rode Crisp I had 12 stone, top weight, along with L’Escargot (Tommy Carberry) who had won two Cheltenham Gold Cup’s. But we were giving 25 pounds away to Red Rum. You know, it was a few at the top and a great void down the bottom and horses were running off 8 stone 9, they had to carry 10 stone, therefore you had to be rated 110 to get in the race. Now you have to be rated 140 and you still might not get in. So the general overall figure of the horses running at Aintree has improved tremendously. I just love it. I think jockey’s, we were cavaliers in our day, now they’re professionals. They’ve got drivers, nutritionists, people who look after your minds, psychiatrists. You know, like golf and tennis, they are top sportsmen.

Me: And on from that, how much do you think social media and new technology has changed racing?

Richard: Well, it’s very very good to come home and look at your races as a jockey and see what you’ve done wrong. I mean, (AP) McCoy was the most brilliant because he would come home having won 4 races and look to see why he hadn’t won the 5th but also look back at the 4 races he had won and thought should I have done anything different in that race, not to win further, maybe win easier. It’s a tremendous tool, accept with social media it allows people to be anonymous and be absolutely vile, are they called trolls? Now, that isn’t very fair and mentally it pulls people down. My answer to that is, if you’re being targeted by idiots, don’t look at it. Turn it off. It’s a hard enough game mentally, the weight loss, the travelling, the riding is great, but it’s a hard enough game without being pillared on social media.

Me: You mentioned AP McCoy there, do you think there is any current jockey riding who will come close to or beat his records?

Richard: Be very difficult, because Brian Hughes has been around a while, Dicky (Richard) Johnson won’t be going long enough to do it, I think if Dicky (Richard) Johnson’s body holds up, because he’s young, he’s fit, he doesn’t have the weight, no he’s not young sorry, he’s forty something now, his body is trim, he doesn’t have weight which is a huge advantage, but the falls have been taking it’s toll over the last few years on him. He could actually ride more winners than AP rode in history, as long as his body holds out. But we’ve got some great young jockey’s, but again for Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Scudamore, Aidan Coleman, there’s a stack of very very good jockey’s, have they been riding long enough to get into the same mode as AP… He was Champion Conditional and then for the next 20 years Champion Jockey so right from that early start before he lost his allowance he was champion. You know… It’s going to be a very difficult thing to do.

Me: And talking about Champion Jockey’s, this year we have Harry Skelton, Harry Cobden and Brian Hughes all very close at the top, who do you think will get the edge?

Richard: Well, that’s difficult, I think Brian Hughes will because it matters to him, for example, he’s freelance, he can go anywhere, he’s popular, he’s the go to jockey. For instance, the first two days of Cheltenham he rode in the North so that means he wants winners, not particularly quality winners. In fact, the trainers he rides for don’t necessarily have these top ones. Whereas Cobden will have to go where Paul Nicholls wants him to go for the big races. And the Skelton’s have been amazing haven’t they? How they’ve come on in such a short time, quality and quantity.

Me: And for the final question, what is your best piece of advice for a young person who wants to follow their passion?

Richard: Right, you’ve got to be dedicated of course, but you’ve also got to enjoy it. If you enjoy a job, it isn’t work. Even though in stables it is hard graft and being a jockey, you know, I used to get up very early in the cold and drive with the sweat suit on to lose even more weight, you know it’s a hard old graft but the passion has got to be there, you’ve got to want it. My advice to any young person who goes to riding school is to look at the trainers and see who gives a chance to young people and go to them and make sure they’re not a 10 horse trainer because with a big trainer the crumbs off the table are big enough to feed you because if a senior jockey gets hurt then you come in and get your chance.


So there we have it, I want to say a massive thank you to Richard for his time, it was an honour speaking with him. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I hope everyone else has too! I also want to say a massive thank you to everyone for the support this week, I am so grateful to anyone who’s taken time out to read my work this week and I will hopefully see you all tomorrow at 11am for my final post in my 7 in 7 days series which is an interview with Eoin Walsh which you do not want to miss!

An Interview with Danny Mcmenamin

Danny Mcmenamin

Hiya guys!

Today I am bringing to you an interview with conditional jockey Danny Mcmenamin, he is a jockey that is coming through the ranks and is definitely one to watch out for in the future. I hope you enjoy!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Danny: Winning the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham is surely a day I will never forget. The amount of times I have dreamt of that in my head and for it to happen was the best day in my life. Cheltenham is a special place, festival or not it is the home of racing.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past of present, what horse would you choose?

Danny: Kauto Star, he’s a horse which I fell in love with when I was growing up. His ability was freak like, the whole racing community loved him. He was a proper horse.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Danny: My opinion on the whip is that it needs to stay for jockeys and other horses safety. There has been a massive improvement over the years with new rules and newly designed whips and I am sure things will improve further.

Me: As a jockey, weight is obviously a huge thing for you guys, so what would you eat on a regular day? Are there any periods across the year where you can actually just eat everything and anything or is it a strict kind of diet all year round?

Danny: To be honest I’m very lucky with my weight as I’m small, so I get to eat pretty much what I wish to eat. Obviously I just don’t eat junk food, all my meals are homemade and healthy, thanks to my girlfriend.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Danny: Everyone has their right to an opinion, but horses aren’t forced to race, they do it because they enjoy it. It’s in their nature to compete. The horses in racing get extremely looked after.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Danny: When I get some time to myself, which isn’t often, I like to play football and taking the dogs on a walk, which both are a good way to maintain fitness. I’m pretty much into anything outdoors.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Danny: The person I look up to would be Brian Hughes. The way he rides is admirable, everything just looks smooth. He’s always in the right place at the right time in races. He has helped me a lot since I started out and I have a huge amount of respect for him.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Danny: The one race I would love to win would be the Grand National. It has always been a dream of mine. Toby Dobbin, who’s from the same town in Northern Ireland as me and is a family friend, won it, so it would be great to win it.

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming years?

Danny: My overall goal would be just to try and ride as many winners as I can and to keep improving and learning over the years.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Danny: My horse to watch over the next year or two would be Marown trained by my boss Nicky Richards. He is currently unbeaten in 3 starts, one in a bumper and two over hurdles. He’s a big, strong type, proper chasing type. In time he can only improve from what he has done now. Will be exciting to see what the future holds for him.

Me: What is your favourite race course to ride at and why?

Danny: My favourite course, I have to be honest, but one would be Carlisle because, one, it’s only 20 minutes away which helps, but also it takes getting used to, you have to be in the right place at the right time around there. You need a horse which can travel and if you go too soon, you’ll never get home, but if you leave it too late, it’s hard to make ground up that hill. Timing and jumping is everything around there.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Danny: My advice to anyone who has a passion for something, whether it’s sport or other things, is to never stop chasing that passion, no matter if people put you down, people will always doubt you, but when you prove them wrong it will all be worth it. If you believe in it, you will achieve it, it’s just some hard work, dedication and self belief, that’s all that’s needed.

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Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Danny for taking the time to talk to me. I think he is definitely someone to keep an eye on, he is very knowledgeable in the sport and always open to learn more, which is always a good thing. I, for one, can’t wait to watch his progress!

Thank you for reading. I will see you all next Saturday at 11am for An Interview with Phillip Dennis.