Since 2010 there have only been six winners of the UK Flat Jockeys title – Paul Hanagan (twice), Silvestre de Souza (three times), Richard Hughes (three times), Jim Crowley (once) Oisin Murphy (three times) and last year’s winner William Buick.
A few surprising names appear in 2023's early-season top ten, with all-weather success allowing Daniel Muscutt, Rossa Ryan, Kevin Stott and Billy Loughnane to get a head start by racking up numerous wins in the first few months of the year, before the turf racing began at the end of March.
As the turf season gains momentum, so we can expect some of the more familar Champion Jockey contenders to rise up through the rankings.
The table below shows the current position following racing on Sunday 21st May:
It is worth noting that of those ten jockeys, only Danny Muscutt (+29.90 units) and William Buick (+14.41) have made a profit for anyone who backed all their rides. Of the others, Billy Loughnane has made the smallest loss (-4.4), while Luke Morris, who has the lowest win rate of 10%, is 116 units down.
Oisin Murphy, on his return from a lengthy suspension, is firing on all cylinders and has already racked up 61 winners and that suggests that he is going all out to regain the title that he won for three consecutive seasons prior to his 14-month ban.
His main rival for the title this year is likely to be last year’s winner William Buick, who should see significant gains over the next few months as Godolphin starts to send out more runners.
Two names just outside the top ten here are Hollie Doyle (11th) and her husband Tom Marquand (15th) and I would expect both to finish in the top five come the season's end.
It is interesting to note that three of the six champion jockeys since 2010 have experienced issues through substance abuse or from betting misdemeanours and this probably underlines what a tough task it is to win the jockeys’ title.
They cover so many miles each year and only a very few elite jockeys can do this by plane or helicopter, with most having to drive from course to course.
One of the few positives to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic was the restriction to one meeting a day for riders in the UK. This change has been kept in place post-pandemic and will hopefully result in less burnout or dependence on drugs or alcohol to get through a very long and tiring regime.
The big question is who will win the jockeys’ title this season, and I must say that having watched Oisin Murphy’s return from his ban with interest, I do not think I have seen anyone more driven since the glory days of Lester Piggott.
I am sure that William Buick will run Oisin close, especially with the firepower that Godolphin brings to the racecourse.
Predicted UK Champion Jockey: Oisin Murphy (5/4)
One jockey whose progress I am looking forward to following is Billy Loughnane, who as a claimer sits in fifth position currently, which is mightily impressive.
My main concern for Billy going forwards is his height, as he is already 5 feet 7 inches, which is in the land of the giants as far as flat jockeys go.
His father, trainer Mark, is 6 feet 2 inches, so Billy is likely to grow further, which then places huge demands on his weight.
Predicted UK Champion Apprentice: Billy Loughnane (2/1)