While we may only be a little way into the new jumps season, the Trainer Championship is looking particularly good. For Dan Skelton that it! Paul Nicholls former assistant has taken the racing world by storm and is giving the big guys a run for their money.
He currently leads the table on total earnings of just over £320K. Dr Richard Newland is just slightly behind on £277K. The main difference between the two is that while Newland has sent out fewer runners and winners, he has a higher win rate. He is on 28%, so 31 wins from 11 runners. Dan Skelton is on a 23% win rate with 42 wins from 182 runners.
Interestingly, they are not the highest win rates of the trainers in the championship. Of those who have sent out more than 10 runners to date, Gordon Elliott, Brian Ellison, and Harry Whittington are all on a win rate of 35%. However, they have sent out significantly fewer runners, so their earnings are lower, pushing them further down the table.
Dan Skelton has also sent out the largest number of runners at 182. Paul Nicholls, on the other hand, has only saddled 29. On the surface that looks like a huge disparity but don't forget that the season hasn't ‘properly' kicked off. When it does, you can fully expect Nicholls to be sending horses the length and breadth of the country.
To compare to last season, Paul Nicholls won the Trainers Championship with 135 wins from 589 runners. That was slightly more than Nicky Henderson on 544, and a lot less than Dan Skelton on 988. All three had relatively similar win rates. So what ultimately is the main difference?
It is the prize money. Trainers who perform particularly well in the higher class races, win more money. It's that simple. A trainer can send out a 1000 runners and win half of them but if the targeted prize money is low they won't win the Championship. To really compete for the Championship, a trainer needs to win a couple of big Cheltenham Festival or King George-like races.
As an example, last season Colin Tizzard ended on a rather poor 11% win rate (77 wins). But some of the races he did win were huge. So much so that he notched up just shy of £2 million. And that put him on 4th place in the trainer's table.
This only reaffirms that it is quality over quantity that makes the final difference. With so few huge purses to be won over the course of a season, the competition is fierce. As a result, only nine trainers surpassed the £1 million mark in earnings last season. And there are literally hundreds of trainers in the country. More than 800 at last count.
Can Dan Skelton keep the top spot? Honestly, it's very unlikely. While he definitely a serious future contender, he probably doesn't have the strength and depth needed to take on the likes of the Gold Cup, Grand National, King George or Ladbrokes Trophy, all of which offer huge prize money.
That isn't to say that they will necessarily be won by the bigger yards, but all they really need is one or two of them to boost the coffers and pip him to the post.