There is a bit more time to make a decision on where to place your bet for champion Flat jockey this season following the announcement of a change in the format.
If you compare it to when gambling at online casino sites, such as those among the top 2015 Net Ent casino sites, your smallest pay-out will be a high card if you’re playing poker. Or, perhaps, the cherries symbol if you are playing a slots game. Backing Richard Hughes to win the jockeys’ title is going to provide you with the same feeling, as there will be regular wins. But the payouts will not be huge unless your stake is big to start with.
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The changes to the title race still make it a generally safe bet on Hughes, who is around 4/7 to be champion again. Ryan Moore is the only one close to Hughes in the betting, but at 2/1, it’s like drawing a pair.
The Flat Jockeys’ Championship will no longer be run from the start of Doncaster’s Lincoln meeting at the end of March to the November Handicap day at the same track. Instead, the title race for 2015 will run from Guineas day at Newmarket in early May to Champions Day at Ascot in mid-October. The changes have prompted a mixed response, but they should lead to a closer battle. This will especially be the case now that there is also prize money on offer to the winner.
Hughes has been the champion for the past three seasons and is the odds-on favourite to make it four in a row. It will also be his final year as a jockey before retiring to become a trainer. He rode 161 winners in 2014 to beat Moore by six. But his price has lengthened a little bit following the changes. Much is going to depend on what the main motivation for Hughes is this season. Is it to bow out as the champion jockey, or is it to ride as many big-race winners as possible? He will certainly have the ammunition to be champion due to the number of horses he can ride at Richard Hannon junior’s yard.
As for the globetrotting Moore, the changes to the title race will certainly suit him and he is a three-time champion. But he has not won the title since 2009. His priorities definitely appear to lie more in big races across the globe rather than trekking around the country in search of standard winners. You can never rule him out of the title race, especially if he is in the hunt from an early stage. But it is probably worth a watching brief at the moment.
The betting value is clearly in the group of other jockeys who are capable of riding more than 100 winners. You just need to find somewhere to pay out on a top-three finish. If you do, then you can expect the sort of odds that you would have on drawing two pair or three of a kind. So it’s not an improbability, but you’re still going to need a little bit of luck.
Graham Lee finished third last year after riding 129 winners and so there is not a lot for him to make up on Hughes and Moore, which is reflected in his 20/1 price. A former jump jockey who won the 2004 Grand National on Amberleigh House, Lee is going to be one to follow around the northern tracks. He could also prove a popular choice with Newmarket-based trainers, with Roger Varian confirming he will be looking to use Lee on a regular basis.
William Buick is an interesting contender after finishing fourth with 120 winners last year. He has now signed a deal to ride for Godolphin, primarily for the Charlie Appleby side of the operation. Appleby has been firing home the winners on the all-weather and he is going to have a bundle of horses to send out. Also, the horses formerly owned by HRH Princess Haya of Jordan will now run in the Godolphin colours. That could see Buick pick up a few more winners with his old boss John Gosden.
James Doyle will also be riding for Godolphin this season, primarily for Saeed bin Suroor. He was sixth last year with 116 winners. Adam Kirby was fifth as 11 jockeys rode more than 100 winners. He appeals as a potential future champion jockey.
Much could depend on how frequently Buick and Doyle are required to ride abroad for Godolphin. If they are in Britain often enough, then Buick has a chance of beating Hughes and Moore. If he is not, then Lee looks the most obvious challenger. But if you really want to hit the jackpot, then Paul Hanagan is 66/1 and he is a two-time champion Flat jockey.