Hughes officially crowned top jumps jockey for the first time

Defence of maiden title will be high on the agenda.

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Brian Hughes has vowed to do all he can to defend his title after officially being announced as champion jockey for the first time following the close of the 2019/2020 jumps season.

The 34-year-old was leading Richard Johnson by 19 winners on 141 victories before the season was brought to an unscheduled end on March 17, when the British Horseracing Authority announced the suspension of racing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The campaign had been set to conclude on April 25 at Sandown and a presentation will now be made at some point when racing resumes.

Hughes told Great British Racing: “It has always been a dream of mine to become champion jockey, so to have finally achieved it is fantastic.

“It is 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 race days to look forward to, but current 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 also lands the northern jockey title, which is awarded to the jockey with the most wins at courses north of Market Rasen during the championship period, having secured 110 of his overall 141 wins at northern tracks.

Jonjo O’Neill Jnr is champion conditional having notched up 61 winners – a tally which is good enough to see him finish 10th overall in the main jump jockeys’ championship.

O’Neill Jnr, who finished 20 winners clear of runner-up Ben Jones, said: “I feel very lucky that this year has gone so well. It’s all thanks to my main supporters, my dad and the Tizzards, who have been so good to me this season.

“I’m delighted to have won the conditional championship, it’s what I set out to do at the start of the season and there’s an illustrious roll of honour – so it’s nice to be included on it.”

Nicky Henderson claims his sixth champion trainer title, with his total of £2,533,862 in prize-money seeing him finish £192,550 clear of 11-times winner Paul Nicholls.

Henderson sent out 118 winners, with four Cheltenham Festival winners highlighted by Champion Hurdle victor Epatante.

He 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 Park.

“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 as a team 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.”

Epatante’s owner JP McManus took his championship division with plenty to spare, finishing £1.39 million ahead of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

McManus won seven races in total at the Festival, with Champ’s last-gasp RSA Novices’ Chase also among the highlights.

Hughes officially crowned top jumps jockey for the first time
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