Criticism that the turf flat season in Great Britain tends to end with a whimper rather than a bang looked somewhat misplaced at Doncaster Nov. 9 when the race for champion jockey ended in a tie for the first time in 84 years.
Jamie Spencer, 27, and Seb Sanders, 36, each finished the season with 190 winners. The number of wins determines Britain’s champion jockeys despite calls for it to be settled on prize money earned. It was only the third time in history the riders’ title has been shared.
Thrillingly, Spencer matched Sanders’ total in the very last race of the season. The scream he let out after partnering Inchadamph to that title-equalling success was a measure of not just his joy in matching Sanders’ total, but relief that an exhausting battle, which saw both men cover nearly 2,000 miles in the final 48 hours of the title race, was over.
“I am choked--it has been so mentally draining over the last month,” Spencer said. “But this is the best possible result for racing; there could be no other. It was a straight draw, we didn’t give up four or five days ago when we were level, we went right to the end.
“I admire Seb Sanders so much. He is as tough a rival as you could ever have.”
Sanders had to sit out the final race after his mount was withdrawn, knowing Spencer could only match his tally, not beat it.
“This is the Holy Grail for me,” Sanders said before that race. “But I’m trying to be as calm as I can. It would not be fair on Jamie if I started celebrating when he has one ride to come. Good luck to him, I hope he goes out and wins it.”
Described by Spencer as “like a candle you blow out that keeps relighting,” Sanders had actually been eight winners down 16 days before the season ended but fought back with typical determination.
The final day also saw the retirement of Kevin Darley, himself champion jockey in 2,000, albeit the year when Kieren Fallon suffered a serious injury. Darley’s career picked up in his late 30s and early 40s when he partnered such talented horses as Attraction and Celtic Swing.