Mark Johnston on the race to be champion flat jockey

Mark Johnston on the race to be champion flat jockey

Mark Johnston big at York by VernonWe’re midway through the flat racing season and the race to be the champion jockey took on a new look when first Ryan Moore was sidelined through injury, and then Richard Hughes announced his early retirement from the saddle.

Now Silvestre De Sousa is the bookies odds on favourite to be named champion flat jockey when that competition comes to what many consider to be a premature conclusion. Ryan Moore, who I had a bet on at 9/2 prior to Royal Ascot, is now priced as big as 20/1.

When the new schedule for the jockeys’ championship was announced it received mixed reviews. The title was to be concluded in a shorter time than usual, less than six months.

One man who believes the new plan was a mistake is trainer Mark Johnston (pictured above).

He says: “Change for the sake of change is a big mistake and change for the sake of keeping some marketing gurus in a job… is madness. Potential negative consequences should always be given serious consideration.

“It is difficult to accept that the potential negative consequences of shortening the flat jockeys’ championship to under six months of the year have been properly considered.

“Rod Street, chief executive of Great British Racing, tells us that ‘racing’s seasons have arguably lost their relevance’. That is true. How can a season be considered relevant when racing takes place all year round and races of all types are run in and out of ‘season’? How can a championship period be considered relevant if structured in the same way?

“They are calling it the ‘core premier Flat racing period’ but there are 64 turf meetings taking place outside that period. The list includes all types of races from established classic trials to the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy. Inside the championship are 75 meetings run on all weather tracks which, of course, if you can get your head round Rod Street’s brand of logic, are not in the All-Weather championship.

“There are also approximately 41 all-weather fixtures, to go with the 64 turf fixtures, which are not in the flat championship or the flat all-weather championship. I say ‘approximately’ as I’m not exactly sure when the latter starts and finishes. Confused? Me too.

“Jockeys have very little to lose from the changes. There is £100.000 in prize-money on offer with this new championship that wasn’t there before and that includes prizes for those who ride the most winners in the calendar year.

“The champion jockey will now, if all goes to plan, be crowned on Champions Day and Rod Street claims that this will raise the profile of our top jockeys and the sport in general. I’m not so sure.”

de sousa

Silvestre De Sousa

I have to say I tend to agree with Mark Johnston, writes Vernon Grant. The race to be champion flat jockey should not be a sprint and should conclude in October. One intention of the new plan was to try and keep the best jockeys from going abroad to race. Ryan Moore often goes overseas during the height of the season. But I don’t think the jockeys themselves are as bothered about being named champion as some would assume.

It’s not the flat champion jockey season that requires attention. Time was you knew when the flat season began and ended. It was clear when the National Hunt season started and terminated. Racing should return to the time of clear and definitive seasons. And each code should cease for one month of the year so making clear to all which season we are officially in.

Of course, in this age when the big bookies dictate fixtures, that’s not going to happen. The puppet (the British Horseracing Authority) and the puppet master (the bookies) would give us all weather racing from Wolverhampton on Christmas Day if they could.

It will be refreshing if we get a new champion flat jockey in Silvestre De Sousa. He’s good and no punter could ever accuse him of not trying. Indeed he has received many a ban for excessive use of the whip. As things stand, that may be the only thing that could prevent De Sousa from being named champion.

I’m hoping Ryan Moore bounces back from his worrying injury and secures the title with a late burst of winners on UK soil. But right now, nothing is further from his mind. He just wants to get the all clear and return to the saddle.


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