National Hunt Championship titles confirmed for current leaders Henderson, Hughes, O’Neill Jnr and McManus

Epatante (nearside) jumps to the front
The Nicky Henderson-trained, J P McManus-owned Epatante (nearside) jumps to the front under Barry Geraghty to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle. (Pic: Courtesy of Cheltenham Racecourse)

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NICKY Henderson has been confirmed as champion national hunt trainer for the 2019/20 season with Brian Hughes named champion jockey and Jonjo O’Neill Jnr champion conditional.

The news follows last month’s suspension of horse racing until at least the end of April 2020 due the Covid-19 outbreak.

The jumps season was scheduled to conclude on April 25. The Professional Jockeys’ Association, National Trainers’ Federation and the Racehorse Owners’ Association have jointly agreed to award the championship titles to the current leaders of the respective title races.

This is the sixth time Henderson has won the trainers’ championship – last winning the title in 2017/2018. This season the Lambourn handler won £2,533,862 in prize money to finish £192,550 ahead of 11-time champion trainer and last year’s winner Paul Nicholls.

“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 [on April 25],” said Henderson who won 118 races this term. “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.”

While the trainers’ championship is decided on prize money, the jockeys’ title is determined by the number of winners for the season during which Brian Hughes established a commanding lead to win his first title, finishing the campaign with 141 wins, 19 more than defending champion Richard Johnson.

Hughes, 34, said, “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.”

In the champion conditional title race, Jonjo O’Neill Jnr claims the prize having notched up 61 winners and finishes the campaign in 10th place overall in the main jump jockeys championship.

The champion owners’ title, which is decided by prize money, was won by J P McManus with £2,137,844. McManus’ 79 winners included a remarkable seven wins at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

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