With only six days to go to the crowning of our National Hunt Champions for the 2016/2017 season, the titles of Champion Trainer and Champion Amateur Rider are still very much to play for ahead of the Irish National Hunt Festival at Punchestown which begins tomorrow.
The race to become Champion National Hunt Trainer has been one of the stories of the season and Gordon Elliott continues to hold sway over Willie Mullins as he bids for his first title. The gap between Ireland’s leading National Hunt trainers is €402,405 heading into the opening day of the Festival on Tuesday. Mullins was first crowned champion trainer in the 2000/2001 season and regained his crown in 2007/2008. He has held the title ever since.
Patrick Mullins and Jamie Codd have gone head-to-head all season in the race to be the leading Amateur Jockey, with Jamie Codd currently two winners ahead. Patrick won the title of Champion Amateur Rider for the first time in the 2007/2008 season and has retained it ever since, while current Champion Point-to-Point Rider, Wexford-born Codd is hoping to be crowned Champion Amateur Rider for the first time. He leads by 38 winners to Patrick’s 36.
With 129 winners to date, Ruby Walsh has long had his 12th Champion Jockey title wrapped-up. He has enjoyed another remarkable year and is on target to top his previous best tally of 131 winners, a record he set in 2007/2008. Ruby’s most valuable success of the season came on Clondaw Warrior, part-owned by his wife Gillian, in the Guinness Galway Hurdle last July. He also enjoyed Grade 1 success with Valseur Lido, Douvan, Min, Nichols Canyon, Djakadam and Vroum Vroum Mag. Jack Kennedy, who only turned 18 on Saturday, will finish runner-up in the title race. He has 67 winners to his name, seven more than former champion jockey Davy Russell and nine more than Mark Walsh. With 52 winners under his belt, Paul Townend is the only other rider to break through the half-century mark.
Rachael Blackmore is the first female jockey to win the Conditional Riders’ title. The success of 25/1 chance Just Call Me at Tipperary on Thursday evening saw the Killenaule, County Tipperary native move on to the 32 winner mark for the season and heading into the final few days of the season, she is eight winners clear of Donagh Meyler who only has seven winners remaining as a claiming professional. Rachael, who only turned professional in March of 2015, enjoyed her most notable success of the season at Naas last month when she landed the Ladbrokes Leinster National Handicap Chase on the Ellmarie Holden-trained Abolitionist.
Despite the fact that Nina Carberry hasn’t ridden since announcing her pregnancy in early September, Nina will collect the Mary Hyde Perpetual Cup for Leading Lady Rider with 20 winners.
Gigginstown House Stud will be crowned Champion Owner for the fifth time. Notable performers in the famous maroon and white colours included TheTote.com Galway Plate hero Lord Scoundrel, Guinness Kerry National winner Wrath Of Titans, Tiger Roll which was successful in the JT McNamara Munster National, the JNwine.com Champion Chase winner Valseur Lido, Ladbrokes Troytown Chase winner Empire Of Dirt and Lexus Chase winner Outlander. Winning hurdlers Apple’s Jade, Petit Mouchoir, Death Duty and Ice Cold Soul also played their part as Gigginstown House Stud retain their title. JP McManus, champion owner on 17 occasions since the 1995/1996 season, looks set to finish runner-up on this occasion, ahead of Susannah Ricci in third place and the Cooper Family Syndicate, owners of BoyleSports Irish Grand National winner Our Duke, are currently in fourth place.
The winners of the six championship titles will be crowned on the final day of the season at the Irish National Hunt Festival at Punchestown this Saturday, April 29th.