The race for the National Hunt leading jockey and trainer prizes came to Market Rasen Racecourse last Wednesday, but none of the contenders could improve their claims.
With three weeks of the National Hunt season left, it looks likely the leading trainer and leading jockey awards will be in familiar hands at the end of April.
When last Wednesday’s meeting at Market Rasen ended, Richard Johnson had amassed 186 wins from his 893 rides, while nearest rival Harry Skelton had clocked up 154 wins.
The leading trainer, calculated in prize money, was Paul Nicholls, followed by Nicky Henderson and then Dan Skelton.
But in terms of winners saddled, Skelton was clearly ahead of his rivals on 175 wins.
Both Johnson and Skelton were at Rasen last Wednesday, seeking further success as they have done at many meetings through the winter season at the Lincolnshire course.
It was not their most successful trip to North Lincolnshire, however, as Johnson had no reward from two rides, while the Skelton brothers for once left Market Rasen empty-handed as well.
The 2018/19 season ends on April 27, but with so many summer jump meetings these days, the new season begins almost immediately.
One feature of last Wednesday afternoon was the return to the winner’s enclosure of Richard Newland, the former Grand National-winning trainer who has also had plenty of success at Market Rasen.
Just lately winners have dried up for Newland, but here Nikki Steel, with Sam Twiston-Davies on board, defied top weight and a lengthy lay-off, to win the MansionBet Handicap Chase, a two-mile one-furlong journey with 12 fences to jump.
The 4/1 shot was always handily-placed before getting his nose in front and showing the quicker speed on the run-in.
The feature race of the afternoon was the £9,700 MansionBet Handicap Hurdle which was a qualifier for the Challenger Staying Hurdle Series final, to be staged at Haydock.
Fergal O’Brien saddled the 15/8 favourite Ballyhome, with Connor Brace on board.
O’Brien had a double on the afternoon, having won the opening Novices Hurdle with another favourite, Benny’s Bridge, sent off at 4/6f, with Paddy Brennan on board.
In-form trainer Philip Kirkby also had a double with Lady Camelot (13/8) in the second race, a maiden hurdle, and Ice Galley (12/1) in the Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap at the bottom of the card.
Looking forward, all eyes will be on the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, with Tiger Roll, once a winner at Market Rasen, seeking to win it two years on the trot, or more realistically on the gallop.