The last jumps season produced some epic wins and breakout stars for National Hunt racing. Of course, most of the focus was on Gordon Elliott’s Tiger Roll and his incredible back-to-back win in the Grand National? It was another amazing success for jockey Davy Russell and owner Micheal O’Leary.
Then we had Irish trainer Willie Mullins finally winning his first Cheltenham Gold Cup with Al Boum Photo? And while Champion trainer Paul Nicholls reigned supreme once again, Nicky Henderson and Dan Skelton were hot on his heels.
So who were the winners of the 2018/19 national hunt season? Whose star shone the brightest?
There can only be one true hero and horse of the year for last season. And that is Tiger Roll. Doing what no other horse has achieved since Red Rum in the 70s, he bagged back-to-back National wins. He also earned more than any other runner last season, taking home £541,380 in prize money.
Since then he has gained a mark of 172 after his history-making success at Aintree. That makes him the third highest rated staying chaser after Kemboy (177) and Al Boum Photo (175).
Will the Gordon Elliott trained superstar be back for his third Grand National in 2020? That’s debatable. Connections will wait until the weights are revealed before making any decisions.
And while Tiger Roll stole the Grand National headlines, Altior was the hero of Cheltenham. Winning an incredible 19 races on the bounce, the nine-year-old has amassed winnings of £1,234,751. Will we see him in the King George later this year??
So many great trainers had milestones last season. Gordon Elliott for training Tiger Roll. Or Willie Mullins for this Irish Grand National and Cheltenham win. But it’s Dan Skelton that has been steadily plugging away at the Trainer’s Championship. Since 2013, when he first took out his trainers license, he has gone from strength to strength.
In the 2018/19 season he sent out 205 winners, crossing the £2m earnings barrier. He was surpassed only by Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls. He also saddled more runners but has since said that it was an exceptional year.
Speaking to the Racing Post Skelton said: “Last year was an exception, not the benchmark which is to win £1 million in prize-money and have at least 100 winners.
“My ambition is to close the gap on Nicky [Henderson] and Paul [Nicholls]. I’m not going to catch them just yet but I hope to get closer to them in coming years.”
Richard Johnson may still be missing that elusive Grand National win, but he did accumulate total earnings of £2,262,552. That wasn’t actually the most won by a jockey, with Harry Cobden topping out on earnings of £2,306,516.
However, Johnson notched up 200 winners in the season and won the Champion Jockey title. Adding that to his tally, it was his fourth consecutive win.
Special mention must go to the wonderful Bryony Frost. Her history-making win in the Ryanair Chase on Frodon was a highlight of the whole season. Despite a subsequent injury that ruled her out of the Grand National, she confidently stepped into the role of presenter much to the delight of her fans. She then capped off a great season by winning the Conditional Jockeys Championship.
Who will make history in the coming season? Richard Johnson is leading the field in the Jockeys Championship but there is a very long way to go. Could we see Bryan Hughes, Harry Skelton or Bryony Frost take the mantle?
Will horse of the year, Tiger Roll, make it to the 2020 Grand National and if so will he be burdened by top weight?
There is so much exciting racing ahead of us in the 2019/20 season. And like all racing fans, I will be watching with bated breath as the action unfolds.