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HARRY Skelton will be crowned champion national hunt jockey and Paul Nicholls champion trainer at the Bet365 Jump Finale at Sandown Park on Saturday.
Skelton secured his first championship this week following a close-fought battle with last year’s winner, Brian Hughes, while Nicholls wins the trainers’ championship for the 12th time in a record-breaking season.
Earlier this week Nicholls broke his previous best tally of 171 winners and had posted 173 wins at the time of writing.
“It’s nice to be champion trainer as last season was a little frustrating as it ended earlier than we’d have liked,” Nicholls said.
“We’ve had some good battles with Nicky [Henderson – last year’s winner] over the last few seasons; he’d probably be the first to admit he hasn’t had the season he would have wanted. He’ll be back again next season, that’s for sure, and then we’ve got Dan Skelton snapping at our heels.
“We’ve got some nice horses to run at Sandown on Saturday and it will be nice to go there without any pressure. The season hasn’t ended yet and hopefully we’ll add a few more,” the Racing Post report.
Nicholls is currently £500,000 clear of nearest pursuer Dan Skelton (146 winners), his former assistant, and brother of champion jockey Harry Skelton, in the prize-money-determined trainers’ championship.
Meanwhile, Harry Skelton boosted his tally for the season to 150 on Wednesday and is now too far ahead for Hughes (140) to overcome the advantage.
The bulk of Skelton’s winners have been trained by Dan Skelton and Harry pinpointed the team’s victory with Shannon Bridge in a handicap hurdle at Ascot on February 20 as the moment he realised he had a chance of winning the jockeys’ championship.
“I knew the horses were in good form, I knew I had the ammunition to do it. I can’t thank all the staff at Lodge Hill (Skelton’s yard) enough,” the jockey told Racing TV.
“Shannon Bridge was the turning point when I knew we had some fresh horses to go at, that is a big plus, horses that hadn’t been racing over the winter and I knew Dan’s planning.
“I know what he’s capable of, when he’s got something in his mind, you’d be doing well to get it out of his head.
“Once I had a sniff of something, I’m a competitor and I was willing to give it my all. Shannon Bridge was the point when I knew I was close enough that it was possible.”
In other championships, Danny McMenamin will be crowned 2020/21 champion conditional, while the champion jump owner’s title goes to JP McManus, owner of Randox Grand National winner Minella Times, who is winning the title for the 14th time.
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