The changes to the British Flat jockeys’ championship, announced on Monday and to come into effect this year, have occasioned much discussion and more than a little ire in racing circles, with one commentator lambasting the move as “total garbage” and another claiming it showed “no respect for tradition.”
The previous method for determining the Champion Flat Jockey in Britain took into account the number of winners ridden between Lincoln Handicap Day and November Handicap Day, the customary start and end of the Flat turf season.
In future, the time period covered will be between the start of the Newmarket Guineas Meeting and British Champions Day, roughly 24 weeks as opposed to 32 weeks.
It is interesting to consider what difference this would have made to the outcome of recent titles. The answer is, bluntly, “none”, though that admittedly does not allow for possible changes in behaviour by jockeys as a result of the new parameters.
The top four jockeys by number of winners in 2012, 2013 and 2014 would all have been the same, and in the same order, regardless of whether the timescale used was the long version or the short version, as the following tables show.
The new timeframe does mean that the jockeys’ championship will both commence and complete on major occasions in the Racing Calendar, with the British Champion Flat Jockey being crowned on British Champions Day in October.
In addition, the Champion Jockey will get a prize award (of £25,000) for the first time, as will the runner-up, the Leading Apprentice, the jockey to have ridden most winners in the calendar year, the All-Weather Champion Jockey and monthly winners.
Debate is likely to continue to rage about the best way to determine Britain’s Champion Flat Jockey, with suggestions made having included: considering the full calendar year; considering only winners in Group and listed races; taking into account just prize money; using Timeform’s unique jockey ratings; and having an end-of-year “play-off” between monthly winners.
What is certain is that the jockeys’ championship and the trainers’ championship are even more out of kilter now than previously. The latter is determined on wins gained between November of one year and November of the next.
The situation regarding the trainers’ and jockeys’ championships was discussed at length in the essay on Sky Lantern in Timeform’s Racehorses of 2013 Annual.