Friday, May 01, 2015

A brief review of the 2014/15 jumps season

Champion jockey: A P McCoy
Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls
Leading conditional rider: Sean Bowen

On the final day of the season, amidst emotional scenes at Sandown, Tony McCoy claimed his 20th successive jockeys' title and retired from the saddle having amassed 4357 winners in an exceptional riding career. On course for 300 winners in the early part of the season, McCoy suffered injuries which made that particular target unattainable.

Paul Nicholls won the trainers' title and in the process earned himself the nickname 'Mr Saturday' as inmates from the yard plundered the top jumps prizes throughout the winter months; Dodging Bullets emerged as the season's best two mile chaser.

Silviniaco Conti was tapped for toe behind Menorah on his reappearance in the Charlie Hall but the Ditcheat gelding claimed Haydock's Betfair Chase and the King George at Kempton before disappointing once again in the Gold Cup. The horse made amends four weeks later in Aintree's Betfred Bowl with connections now reluctantly accepting the horse is unlikely to win a Gold Cup.

This year's Cheltenham showpiece went to a novice for the first time in over 40 years. Coneygree jumped for fun from the front under Nico De Boinville and the conditional rider had kept enough up his sleeve to repel the late challenge of Djakadam and Ruby Walsh on the climb to the line.

Willie Mullins took the Festival by storm - Douvan (Supreme), Un De Sceaux (Arkle) and Faugheen (Champion Hurdle) all obliged on the opening day and the trainer's Annie Power appeared to have the mares' hurdle in the bag coming to the last but she took a crashing fall that saved the layers around £40 million in payouts.

Vautour's display of jumping to win the JLT Novices' Chase on the Thursday is something I will remember for a long time.

Trained by Oliver Sherwood, Many Clouds made a low-key seasonal debut in Carlisle's Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase but a month later the horse had the Hennessy in the bag. After victory in Cheltenham's BetBright Cup (previously known as the Argento), connections expected a strong show in the Gold Cup but the horse was a little disappointing in sixth. Four weeks on owner Trevor Hemmings watched the horse run 38 rivals ragged around Aintree to collect the 2015 Crabbie's Gand National at odds of 25/1.

At the start of the season Nicky Henderson was considered the most likely winner of the trainers' title but he suffered an indifferent season. The return of stable star Sprinter Sacre at Ascot in January was eagerly-awaited; perhaps the horse isn't quite as good as he once was but a six length second to Special Tiara at Sandown will give connections plenty of hope for the future.

Of course, we thought nothing would detract attention from McCoy's retirement day but 17 year old Sean Bowen did his best with a double on Lil Rockerfeller in the opener and Paul Nicholls' Just A Par in the feature bet365 Gold Cup. This precocious talent was quoted 33/1 for next year's jockeys' title; Richard Johnson, who rode a double on the same card, has been installed 13/8 favourite.

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