It's official: Brian Hughes crowned champion jockey for the first time
In what has been racing's worst-kept secret in recent days, Brian Hughes was finally crowned champion jump jockey for the first time in his career on Monday.
The BHA announced on April 2 jump racing was to be suspended until July 1 in a bid to relieve pressure on medical and emergency services during the Covid-19 pandemic, halting the 2019-20 season and all but confirming Hughes as champion jockey.
Hughes rode 141 winners over the course of the season to beat defending champion Richard Johnson, who finished 19 adrift with 122 winners.
In the other championship categories, Nicky Henderson was named champion trainer, Jonjo O'Neil jnr was crowned champion conditional and JP McManus was named champion owner.
Hughes said: "It has always been a dream of mine to become champion jockey, so to have finally achieved it is fantastic. It's obviously a little disappointing that we haven't been able to see out the season as we were all looking forward to doing so and there were some big racedays to look forward to, but circumstances are out of all our hands, and racing's no different.
"I've had another great season with 141 winners and I cannot thank all the trainers, owners, stable staff and my family who have continued to support me and I hope everyone is staying safe at this time. Like everyone else, I can't wait to get back out there riding and will be doing everything I can to keep hold of the title next season."
Hughes and Johnson were engaged in a ding-dong battle over the course of the season and, despite being in front for the majority of the campaign, it was only when defending champion Johnson suffered a broken arm in mid-February that Hughes hardened as favourite to take the prize.
"Brian has been in terrific form all season and was really able to open up a gap between himself and the rest of us chasing him," said Johnson who has won the last four jockeys' championships, winning every year since his former longtime rival Sir Anthony McCoy retired in 2015.
"It's a huge moment for any rider to become champion jockey and I know that all of us in the weighing room will look forward to formally congratulating Brian when the presentation is made to him later in the year."
Coral have opened the betting for next year's championship with Richard Johnson 4-7 to regain the title and Brian Hughes 6-4 to successfully defend it, while Harry Skelton is next best at 16-1.
"Brian Hughes deserves huge credit for claiming the title even in these extraordinary circumstances, as he was well in front and long odds-on to win it even had the season been completed," said Coral spokesman Simon Clare.
Six up for Henderson
Henderson was also confirmed as champion trainer for the sixth time during his career, 34 years after landing his first, edging another battle with old foe Paul Nicholls by £192,549.
Henderson said: "It's a great pity that we haven't been able to see the season out and it looked like the race was going down to the wire again at Sandown. But all of us know that the current situation is bigger than racing and something that everyone in the country is having to deal with and face.
"I would like to thank all of the owners that have enabled us to win this year's trainers' championship – it really is a testament to them and the horses that we have in our yard.
"Seven Barrows are extremely proud of this title and my staff have been amazing, as they always are, and are doing everything they can to make sure all the horses are looked after during this time.
"I know that they and everyone else in the sport will be raring to go with the next season, as soon as it's safe to start racing again."
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