If you want a closely fought title you have to turn to the apprentices, where there are half a dozen riders within ten wins of each other. 18-year-old Jason Hart, who heads the table, is a man in a hurry. He began race riding two years ago, and has already ridden over 50 winners, which means he can claim only a 3lb allowance when he rides. Yesterday he went to the top of the table after riding a stylish treble at Newcastle. Perhaps surprisingly, none of them was for his boss, Declan Carroll, though that doesn’t worry him. He said, “It shows I’m getting a lot of support from trainers.”
He’s scored 32 winners this season; two more than closest rival Thomas Brown. He started out a year earlier than Hart, but with just two wins from 22 rides in his first season, the two have more or less run in parallel with each other, rarely racing against each other. This is largely because Brown rides primarily in ”the south for Andrew Balding’s stable, whereas Carroll’s yard in Yorkshire has more runners at the northern tracks.
Brown reckons this season is his best opportunity to take the apprentice crown. He said, “I think and hope Andrew says this is my year. Recently the lead has been chopping and changing with Jason, but Andrew has certainly got behind me and wants me to win it as much as I do. This season has gone brilliantly so far and I really want to be champion as I’ll probably never have as good a chance again.”
There are five winners back to Connor Beasley, and another three to Darren Egan, who finished second in this particular battle last year. He may well have beaten Amy Ryan had he not suffered a broken collarbone last October and lost three weeks at the end of the season. This is his final chance to win; he’s a total of 69 winners, and will lose his claim sometime next year when he reaches 90 wins.
He knows the score here, and summed it up perfectly, saying, “I’ve been through this before and I think I’m lighter than a lot of the others, which should also be a help, but as I found out to my cost last year there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. I’d love to win it – I’m sure we all would – but there’s still a long way to go.”
Too right, and with Lee Topliss and Willie Twiston-Davies also in the mix, it’s a race that could go all the way to the last meeting at Doncaster on 9 November.