Grand National Jockeys: Who Could Triumph in 2019?

Winning the Randox Health Grand National is understandably high on the wish-list of any National Hunt jockey and the 2019 race will provide yet another chance for one of them to add their name this exclusive list. Very few jockeys are able to land the prestigious Aintree steeplechase and recent stagings of the event have seen the likes of David Mullins, Derek Fox and Ryan Mania break their duct in the race. We take a look at some of the riders who will be hoping to be first past the post on April 6th.

Source: At the Races via Twitter

Davy Russell

The obvious place to start is with last year’s winning jockey – Davy Russell. The County Cork-born rider was the oldest jockey in the field when he partnered Tiger Roll to victory in 2018 and it was an emotional day for the 39-year old, who had endured thirteen failed attempts in the race prior to this triumph. Russell had enjoyed a profitable season prior to his victory although he’d spent some time away from the sport earlier in the year following the death of his mother and the birth of his fourth child.

It was a suitably dramatic finish to the contest with Russell’s mount almost being caught on the line by the impressively fast-finishing Pleasant Company. After the result was officially confirmed, there was a palpable sense of relief amongst connections and the winning jockey was finally able to enjoy the moment alongside trainer Gordon Elliott, who was celebrating his second Grand National success.

Tiger Roll is likely to return to defend his crown in 2019 and the diminutive gelding is likely to be popular in the betting once again. Davy Russell is likely to get the mount once again and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him involved at the business end of the race for the second successive time.

 

Barry Geraghty

The second name on our list is another experienced operator who is likely to be prominent in this year’s renewal. Barry Geraghty suffered a stop-start 2018 campaign and if he manages to stay injury-free this year, he is likely to have his pick of the JP McManus runners.

It’s been sixteen years since Garaghty partnered Monty’s Pass to victory and he is long overdue another winner in the contest. He achieved another career milestone in January when landing the Birchdale at Cheltenham which helped him become the fourth most successful jockey of all-time in Britain and Ireland. His total of 1,875 winners enabled him to surpass Richard Dunwoody’s total, although he’s still a fair way behind the now-retired AP McCoy, who managed 4,348 winners during his illustrious career.

Last season he was on board Anibale Fly who began the race as one of the favourites but was only able to finish fourth. Geraghty talked up his mount’s chances pre-race yet being forced to lug the third highest weight around the energy-sapping course meant that the nine-year-old was running on empty during the final couple of furlongs.

One possible mount for the experienced rider is Sandymount Duke, who is owned by Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Source: OddsBible Racing via Twitter

Danny Cook

Danny Cook is still searching for his first Grand National winner and is highly likely to partner Vintage Clouds in this year’s contest. The Romford-born rider looks set to participate in the race for the fourth time and will be hoping for better luck this time around.

In 2017, Definitly Red pulled up after being badly hampered at Bechers Brook and the same fence proved to be Cook’s undoing just twelve months later, as I Just Know also came down at the sixth. Cook was later reprimanded by the authorities for helping wave the runners around the iconic fence as they approached it on the second circuit.

As of February 2019, Cook has already chalked up 23 winners this season and he will be hoping to increase that tally during the run-up to the Grand National. He is likely to partner Definitly Red at the Cheltenham Festival in March and barring any accidents, he is also expected to be Sue Smith’s preferred choice for April’s world-famous steeplechase.

Vintage Clouds is currently one of the frontrunners in the betting and has proven stamina. He came third in 2018’s Scottish Grand National and despite being unable to finish his lastest race at Chepstow, the market appears confident of his chances of picking up a second career success at the Merseyside course.

He is around 25/1 in the betting although that price is likely to shorten further over the next couple of months. Those who wish to back the Yorkshire-raider can take advantage of a number of Grand National bonuses, all of which have been collated by Oddschecker. These offers will give all new customers the opportunity to use their free bet on the historic four-miler.

 

Paul Townend

Despite a number of appearances in the Randox Health Grand National, Paul Townend has never experienced the elation of winning the race. His first appearance saw him finish eleventh on Irish Invader and he was unseated at the 15th fence just twelve months later.

In 2018, he was on board Total Recall, who was heavily fancied for success in the race and went off as the 7/1 favourite. Unfortunately, the Willie Mullins-charge made an error at the fourth last and was eventually pulled up. That was the last time that Townend partnered the ten-year-old, although he isn’t likely to be short of offers ahead of this year’s renewal.

KemBoy is a horse who tends to get on well with Townend and the pair could team up once again in April. The seven-year-old was last seen winning the Savills Chase at Leopardstown at the end of 2018 and will be aiming to continue his unbeaten streak when he takes to the Aintree fences.

The pair were last seen together on UK turf in 2018 when finishing fourth in the Grade 1 JLT Novice’s Chase at Cheltenham.

Source: Ladbrokes via Twitter

Jack Kennedy

Jack Kennedy is one of the sport’s rising stars and he’s been gradually making a name for himself over the past 18 months. He finished third on board Bless the Wings in 2018 with the Gordon Elliott runner finishing eleven lengths behind stablemate Tiger Roll.

He has been described as the natural heir to AP McCoy and after riding four winners at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, it’s easy to understand the hype surrounding the 19-year old.

2019 will be just his second outing in the race and he will be hoping to go one better this time around. Gordon Elliott is likely to send a number of runners across the Irish sea and Kennedy is likely to feature prominently in this year’s renewal.

He has continued to ride winners for the County Meath stable and recently accompanied Dallas Des Pictons to victory in the Grade B William Fry Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown.

If he isn’t able to pick up a victory in the 2019 Randox Health Grand National, it is unlikely to be long until Kennedy is able to add his name to the select list of winning jockeys.

 

Brian Hughes

Brian Hughes is one of the top northern jockeys in the UK and after finishing eleventh on Seeyouatmidnight last season, he is likely to be back for another crack.

During the 2017-18 campaign, he won 142 of his 810 chase starts and finished second on a further 131 occasions. He is hugely reliable and although he isn’t one of the bigger names in the race, it is ill-advised to write off his chances.

He already has course form at Aintree but is winless in six attempts when it comes to the Grand National. The North Yorkshire-based rider is unlikely to be short of potential suitors and many trainers will be hoping to secure his services ahead of April’s steeplechase.

The 2019 Randox Grand National is likely to be another dramatic and thrilling contest and there are a number of jockeys who will have a chance to add their name to the illustrious list of winning riders. Who will be first past the post on April 6th, 2019

 

 

Oisin Murphy

 Oisin Murphy is the nephew of Jim Culloty and spent his formative years as a jockey under the tutelage the Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer and jockey, as well as spending school summer holidays with Tommy Stack and Aidan O’Brien. In 2012, at the age of 17, Murphy left school and became apprenticed to Andrew Balding at Park House Stables in Kingsclere, near Newbury, Berkshire.

 

Murphy had his first ride on Feeling, trained by Dai Burchell, who finished last of seven, in lowly 0-65 handicap at Chepstow on May 14, 2013, but rode his first winner, Imperial Glance, trained by Balding, in an apprentice handicap at Salisbury just over a month later. He quickly distinguished himself from the hoi polloi of apprentice jockeys, riding 41 winners in his debut season – more than enough to lose his 7lb claim – including a memorable 9,260/1 four-timer at Ayr that September.

 

On his return from a successful winter in Australia, where he rode 13 winners, in 2014 Murphy was, as widely anticipated, crowned champion apprentice with 76 winners. He rode out his 3lb claim on Presburg, trained by Joseph Tuite, at Sandown in July that year, but the previous month, while still an apprentice, had the distinction of being offered a ride in the Derby – in which he couldn’t claim his allowance – on Red Galileo, trained by Ed Dunlop.

 

In his first full season competing on level terms with his weighing room colleagues, in 2015, Murphy increased his total to 91 winners and, in 2016 – following his appointment as the only jockey retained by Qatar Racing – rode over a hundred winners in a season for the first time. In 2017, he rode his first Group 1 winner, Aclaim, trained by Martyn Meade, in the Prix de la Floret at Chantilly and, at the time of writing, has added ten more victories at the highest level, including four on Roaring Lion and one on Lightning Spear, both owned by Qatar Racing, in 2018.

Silvestre De Sousa

 Nowadays, Brazilian-born jockey Silvestre De Sousa is familiar to British racegoers, having won the Stobart Flat Jockeys’ Championship in 2015, 2017 and 2018 and finished runner-up to Jim Crowley in 2016. A graduate of the racing academy in Sao Paolo, De Sousa was champion apprentice in his native country in 2000, but lost his claim and broke his arm shortly afterwards. After an enforced spell on the sidelines, he found rides harder to come by and, in February, 2004, left Brazil, along with five of his countrymen, to join Irish trainer Dermot Weld. However, in nearly three years in Co. Kildare, promised rides failed to materialise and, following a chance meeting with the late David ‘Dandy’ Nicholls at the Curragh, De Sousa opted to join the erstwhile ‘Sprint King’ at his yard in North Yorkshire.

 

De Sousa rode his first winner in Britain, Sonic Anthem, in a lowly median auction maiden stakes race, at Southwell on New Year’s Day, 2006. The Nicholls-trained four-year-old won by 16 lengths and De Sousa later described the experience as “like being on Frankel”. By the end of the 2006 season, De Sousa had ridden 27 winners but, with Nicholls employing his son, Adrian, as stable jockey, he was picking only a few ‘spare’ rides for the yard. Consequently, on the advice of Nicholls Snr., he became a freelance jockey, riding 21, 35 and 68 winners, respectively, in the next three seasons.

 

In 2010, De Sousa rode exactly 100 winners, many of them for unfashionable trainers, at long odds and, in so doing attracted the attention of Middleham trainer Mark Johnston. In fact, it was Johnston who provided him with his first Royal Ascot winner, Namibian, in the Queen’s Vase in 2011. That season, De Sousa rode 167 winners and failed, by just four, to overhaul Paul Hanagan in the race for the jockeys’ title.

 

Shortly afterwards, he became a retained jockey with Goldolphin, an association that would yield his first domestic Group 1 winner, Farhh, in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in 2013 and the biggest win of his career, African Story, in the Dubai World Cup – worth £3.6 million to the winner – in 2014. However, despite finishing second and third in the jockeys’ championship in 2012 and 2013, respectively, both times behind Richard Hughes, he lost his job with Godolphin after three years. Nevertheless, he bounced back, winning the jockeys’ title – revamped to exclude any winners ridden before May 2 or after October 17 – in 2015, with 155 winners. The rest, as they say, is history.

Richard Johnson

 Richard Johnson rode his first winner, Rusty Bridge, at Hereford in 1994 and was Champion Conditional Jockey in 1995/96, the same year that A.P. McCoy became Champion Jockey for the first time. Thereafter, Johnson was involved in a perennial – and, while amiable, ultimately losing – battle with the Northern Irishman for the jockeys’ championship until his retirement in 2015. McCoy went on to become Champion Jockey a record 20 consecutive times, with Johnson finishing runner-up to his nemesis on no fewer than 16 occasions.

 

However, Johnson who, at the time of writing, recently reached the landmark of 3,500 winners when He’s A Goer won a novices’ hurdle at Warwick, was Champion Jockey for the first time in 2015/16 and collected the jockeys’ championship trophy for the third year running at Sandown Park at the end of the 2017/18 season. While acknowledging the ambitions of younger jockeys – not least Harry Skelton who, at the time of writing, lies second in the Stobart Jump Jockeys’ Championship – Johnson, 41, has described the absence of his great friend, and former great rival, A.P. McCoy, as a ‘bonus’.

 

Johnson still has some way to go to catch McCoy as the most successful National Hunt jockey of all time, but appears to be riding at least as well, if not better, as he has at any point during his phenomenal 24-year career. In the last three seasons, he has averaged exactly 200 winners on British soil and, with 118 to his name already in 2018/19, a fourth consecutive jockeys’ championship title looks a distinct possibility.

 

Of course, in March, 2018, Johnson won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, for the second time, on Native River, trained by Colin Tizzard, adding to his previous victory aboard Looks Like Trouble, trained by Noel Chance, 18 years earlier. Other career highlights at the Cheltenham Festival include Anzum in the Stayers’ Hurdle in 1999, Flagship Uberalles in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2002 and Rooster Booster in the Champion Hurdle in 2003. However, the Grand National, in which Johnson has ridden 20 times, without success, remains elusive, although he did finish second in the world famous steeplechase on Balthazar King in 2014.