Richard Johnson’s stranglehold on the Jockeys’ title looks all but over after the four-time champion broke his arm in a fall at Exeter on Tuesday.
Johnson was as short as 8/11 to land a fifth successive title despite being three behind Brian Hughes going into Tuesday’s action, but betting was quickly suspended when it became clear that Johnson had seriously injured himself after being ejected from the saddle of 11/8 market leader Westend Story in the novices’ handicap chase.
Philip Hobbs, trainer of Westend Story, confirmed that Johnson had broken his arm on Tuesday night, saying: “Richard has broken his right arm between the elbow and the hand and he's going to have it plated either tomorrow or Thursday.
“He's very positive and said he'll definitely be back for Cheltenham no problem.
“Hopefully he'll be riding before Cheltenham, but it's obviously going to be more than a month before he is riding again.
“Hopefully it all goes well and it shouldn't be too complicated. I suppose his championship aspirations are likely gone, but at the same time it would be worse if it happened in six weeks’ time rather than now.”Check Out 2020 Cheltenham Offers
Hughes Now Odds-On
Johnson’s misfortune means that Brian Hughes will, barring accidents, almost certainly now become champion jockey for the first time in his career.
Hughes took his total to 114 with a treble at Newcastle on Monday, taking him 28 clear of third-placed Sam Twiston-Davies, and now has a golden opportunity to become the first northern-based jockey to win the title since Ron Barry in 1974.
Paddy Power had been trying to keep Hughes on-side in their jockeys’ championship book, indeed they were shortest at 4/6 about the 34-year-old.
Spokesman Paul Binfield said: “It is gutting for racing fans as it was shaping up to be a battle royale between north and south but it now very much looks like Brian will secure his first title unless he suffers similar misfortune to Richard and picks up an injury.
“Brian has worked awfully hard to get himself to the top of the tree and huge congratulations must go out to him but it is very unfortunate that racing enthusiasts will now miss out on a mouth-watering tussle between two pilots at the very top of the game.
“Richard had clearly entered into the spirit of the battle as he was going to meetings for just one ride and we have to now hope that the diagnoses is correct and he will be fit to ride in the opening race at Cheltenham Festival.”
Johnson now faces a race against time to be fit for the Cheltenham Festival, which is by no means certain given the average recovery period for such an injury is 62 days according to the Professional Jockeys’ Association’s website.