When does the Flat jockeys’ championship start and finish?
Traditionally, the Flat jockeys’ championship was decided on the number of winners ridden between Lincoln Day at Doncaster, in late March or early April, and November Handicap Day at the same venue, in early November. Those dates corresponded to the start and finish of the well-established Flat racing season on turf. However, since the advent of Flat racing on synthetic, or ‘all-weather’, surfaces in 1989, the start and finish of the turf season have become less meaningful. Indeed, the continued expansion of the all-weather programme has meant that Flat racing takes place on all bar three days of the year.
That said, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has recognised the dangers of jockeys ‘burning out’ in pursuit of the title and taken steps to rectify the situation. Since 2015, the Flat jockeys’ championship has been decided on the number of winners ridden, on turf or all-weather surfaces, between the start of the Guineas Festival at Newmarket and the British Champions’ Day. Thus, in 2021, the Flat jockeys’ championship starts on May 1 and ends on October 16, making it about eight weeks shorter than the traditional championship.
Of course, since racing resumed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, jockeys have been restricted to riding at one meeting a day. The BHA plans to review this rule in due course, but the days of jockeys taking 1,200 or more rides in a calendar year are probably gone for good.