Doncaster loses out as flat jockeys title race is streamlined - plus: Wednesday racing preview

Flashback: Richard Hughes celebrates his third flat jockeys championship at the November Handicap meeting last  November. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire.
Flashback: Richard Hughes celebrates his third flat jockeys championship at the November Handicap meeting last November. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire.

Richard Hughes described the new initiative to crown a champion jockey between the Guineas meeting in May and the Qipco British Champions Day in October as “good progress”.

The championship has traditionally started at the Lincolnshire Handicap meeting at Doncaster in March and ended at the Town Moor course at the November Handicap meeting.

The current champion has declared his intention to go all out to win a fourth crown in what will be his final season in the saddle before he starts a training career.

Announced by Great British Racing, the changes to the jockeys’ championship have been devised to make a title charge less of a grind for its participants, and to “provide a more compelling storyline for new and existing racing fans”.

For the first time, the champion jockey will also be rewarded financially, with £25,000 for the winner.

There will also be prizes for the runner-up, leading apprentice and jockey of the month, which will be run in association with Channel 4 Racing.

“This is good progress and I will be all out to win a fourth successive championship this year under the new format before I retire,” said Hughes.

“Anything which helps to raise the profile of the sport and is of benefit for the weighing room is something that I’m all for.

“Over the last 30 years, the number of racedays has almost doubled and the sheer volume of racing has meant that the title battle is a real grind.

“That the championship now covers the core summer racing season means that it will be less of a slog for the lads in the weighing room.”

Frankie Dettori, three times a champion under the old format, said: “This makes complete sense. The profile of racing has changed.

“You need a good start and a good finish with the leading contenders present. Racing needs to make more of us jockeys and the rivalry between us to engage the public. “I believe it will heighten the intensity of the competition.”

* Spellmaker can find the necessary magic to win the Visit at Chelmsford.

Tony Newcombe’s sprinter often needs fortune in running as he is usually best when delivered from off the pace.

But things came together quite nicely at Lingfield on January 10, when Eoin Walsh brought the six-year-year with a perfect late run which produced a two-and-a-quarter-length victory in a six-furlong handicap.

The gelded son of Kheleyf subsequently finished fourth under a 6lb penalty over course and distance, but that was a better performance than the result suggested.

Spellmaker again came late and fast, but the protagonists at the head of affairs set a rare old gallop from the outset and, perhaps surprisingly, they refused to buckle.

Even so, Newcombe must still have been happy enough as his representative was only beaten a length. He has also been left alone by the assessor on a mark of 76.

Consistent is also one of Spellmaker’s biggest assets - a crucial trait in these trappy all-weather sprints - while Walsh knows him better than anyone and again receives the leg-up.

He was well backed when winning at Lingfield, too, so any market move would be of obvious significance back at the Essex circuit.

The return to six furlongs might do for Wedgewood Estates in the Handicap at Kempton.

Tony Carroll’s filly does not have a great win-to-run ratio, but her sole victory, at Wolverhampton in October, came at this trip. Her chances of adding to that tally were badly compromised back at Dunstall Park in February as Wedgewood Estates was shuffled out wide around the bend. She made up quite a bit of ground late on, though, and ended up finishing sixth from a relatively awkward position. And Wedgewood Estates is now 1lb lower than when she won at Wolves, which adds further gloss to her claims.

* Selections -

Haydock: 2.10 Satanic Beat, 2.45 Valid Point, 3.15 Lightentertainment, 3.50 Benefit Cut, 4.25 A Vos Gardes, 5.00 Armchair Theatre.

Kempton: 5.45 Warbond, 6.15 Go Packing Go, 6.45 Soul Searcher, 7.15 Kolonel Kirkup, 7.45 Charlies Mate, 8.15 Hollie Point, 8.45 Drive On, 9.15 Wedgewood Estates.

Warwick: 2.00 Colin’s Brother, 2.30 Slowfoot, 3.05 Ballyvoneen, 3.35 Vaillant Creek, 4.10 Iron Butterfly, 4.45 Flaming Charmer, 5.20 Board Of Trade.

Chelmsford City: 2.20 Sail Home, 2.55 The Third Man, 3.25 Excellent George, 4.00 Flying Bear, 4.35 SPELLMAKER (NAP), 5.10 Ruban.

Double: Spellmaker and Wedgewood Estates.