Harry Skelton seals title with a little help from dad… 31-year-old rider crowned champion jump jockey after seeing off the challenge of reigning champion Brian Hughes
- Harry Skelton will be crowned at Sandown after seeing off Brian Hughes
- Dad Nick, Britain’s most decorated showjumper, has been a calming influence
- This season 135 of his 150 wins have come on horses trained by his brother Dan
In the tense final weeks of the jump jockeys championship, Harry Skelton had the ideal person in his corner to keep his focus straight and true.
Father Nick, Britain’s most decorated showjumper, kept his cool when the spotlight was at its most intense as he won an Olympic gold medal at the age of 58 at Rio 2016.
Harry, who will be crowned at Sandown tomorrow after seeing off the challenge of reigning champion Brian Hughes, admits his father’s calming influenced helped.
Jockey Harry Skelton (left), dad Nick Skelton (centre) and trainer and brother Dan Skelton
The 31-year-old jockey said: ‘Obviously dad has been there and done it. John Hales, an owner and a friend, said, “You have to ask your dad what he went through in that final round at Rio and how he handled it’’.
‘What he said was try not to get ahead of yourself. Every ride was important. Concentrate on that moment in time.’
Harry and his trainer brother Dan also inherited their father’s burning desire to succeed.
‘We were brought up with showjumping, racing and horses,’ said Harry. ‘It was always about winning. That was our lives and is all we have ever known.’
Harry Skelton (above) will be crowned at Sandown on Saturday after seeing off Brian Hughes
Harry was seen as a future champion as a young jockey and won the Irish National on Niche Market as a 20-year-old. But there was a massive bump in the road when the winners dried up. In the 2012-13 season, he had just eight victories.
His career got back on track when Dan started training and made Harry stable jockey. This season 135 of his 150 wins have come on horses trained by Dan.
‘Blood is thicker than water,’ said Harry. ‘The two of us have always done it together. He wants me to be the best I can and I want the same for him. I was lucky Dan started training. If he hadn’t who knows what might have happened.’
The form of the stable’s horses has allowed Harry to ride over 30 more winners than Hughes since the start of February and transform what seemed like an unbridgeable gap into an unassailable lead.
Harry said he knew he had a chance after Shannon Bridge won at Ascot on February 20.
‘That was the turning point,’ he added. ‘I knew I had the ammunition to do it with some fresh horses who had not been racing too much over the winter months. If you are competitive, a sniff is all you need!’
Harry, who rides at Worcester tonight, ended racing yesterday 10 wins in front.
With Hughes having six rides at Perth today but only one at Sandown tomorrow, Skelton cannot be caught.