The jumps season has begun in earnest and some excellent conditional jockeys are catching the eye. Here are the three that currently lead the 2017/2018 Conditional Jockeys Championship…
James Bowen set a British record, earlier in the year, for point-to-point wins by a novice rider. That’s a pretty impressive achievement, for a 16-year-old! In recent weeks, he has become a regular guest in the winners enclosure. Partners in crime have included Mont Choisy, Dotties Dilema and Deadly Move. In September, he even had the sauce to trouser a double at Worcester – first with The Kid and later with Mister Mister, in a race which included Christian Williams’ well-regarded 7-year-old A Bold Move. Both Rebecca Curtis and Colin Tizzard have booked this outstanding young horseman, in recent months. Bowen currently leads the Conditional Jockey Championship (19 victories) and bagged a winner on both Friday (Fontwell, Diese Des Bieffes) and Saturday (Wincanton, Chase The Ace).
Mitchell Bastyan is hot on the heels of Bowen and now has 18 victories from 97 starts. In October, he enjoyed a superb day at Chepstow – scoring with both Silver Streak (10/1) and Court Minstrel (14/1). Saturday’s win with On Tour at Aintree, in a valuable Class 2 chase was one he will have savoured. Bastyan held-up On Tour (who did have a wobble 4 from home) and Evan Williams’ charge came through the field to assert commandingly in the closing stages. Bastyan also secured the plum ride on Prime Venture, the very next day at Ffos Las and steered the 6-year-old to a comfortable win. Bastyan’s talent has led to him getting some enviable bookings so far in this campaign and he tops the money list, with over £150,000 already won.
Jamie Hamilton‘s 15 wins, from 114 starts, is particularly impressive as he’s usually on-board a horse that starts the race at double-digit odds. At Hexham, on Friday, Micky Hammond put Hamilton on Frank The Slink – a 16/1 shot that hadn’t won since April of 2014! The 11-year-old has been pulled-up on 6 occasions, since then, but Hamilton showed dogged determination in the saddle and the partnership held-off the challenge of Smuggler’s Stash to win well. Hamilton’s previous victory came with Temple Man (10/1), in a maiden hurdle expected to be dominated by Echo Express. A perfectly-timed late charge saw Echo Express (6/5 favourite) thwarted by a nose. Surely, it can only be a matter of time before this excellent young rider is regularly being booked to ride horses with a few more friends in the markets?
The chasing-pack includes Ross Chapman, Ciaran Gethings, Lorcan Murtagh, Richard Patrick, Charlie Hammond, Callum Bewley and Harry Bannister.
Ireland’s Rising Stars
Chris Meehan has shown real guts, finally returning to action after a series of bizarre injuries last year. You will probably only know Meehan as the unfortunate soul who injured his face in a fall, before getting run over by an ambulance as he received attention on the track. His leg was broken and a trampoline accident, four months later, caused a further lay-off. He’s now put all of this behind him and teamed-up with a trainer who is fast-becoming recognised as one of the best in the business – Gordon Elliott. Meehan now seems extremely keen to make up for lost time. Victories on-board Masterson, The Game Changer and Eric McNamara’s Silver Planeur were followed with yet another win at Listowel on the Big Bad Bob-sired gelding Morgan, in a rich novice hurdle that also featured Willie Mullins’ Minella Beau (ridden by Ruby Walsh). His most recent successes came with Crack On Corrie and High School Days. It’s great to see him back!
Donal McInerney is another who has been making waves. He grabbed a double on September 8th, at Kilbeggan, first with Rosie Alice who was sent-off as the 5/2 favourite in the Midland Breeders Supporting Kilbeggan Beginners Chase. McInerney then decided to have his cake and eat it, scoring with Rock On Fruity in a handicap chase where Noel Meade’s Net D’Ecosse was well-beaten. 3 days later, McInerney pressed the accelerator-pedal on Spare Brakes in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle at Listowel. He has picked-up further victories, in recent weeks, with Granny Biddy and The Kings Baby. Since joining Twitter, in the Spring of 2013, Donal Mcinerney has mustered one single tweet. He’s clearly a man who stays focused on the job!
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