Brian Hughes deserves to be champion jump jockey, says title rival Richard Johnson

By Frank KeoghBBC Sport
Space Cadet wins Ulster National behind closed doors

Richard Johnson says title rival Brian Hughes deserves to be crowned British champion jump jockey after the season was halted six weeks early because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hughes was 19 wins ahead of defending champion Johnson when racing in Great Britain was suspended.

A decision on what will happen to the jockey and trainers' championships has yet to be announced.

"Brian is champion and he deserves it," said Johnson, 42, on Twitter.

"We'll be trying to win it back next year."

Johnson had returned to racing after breaking his arm and could have expected some leading rides had big meetings such as the Grand National, and the season-ending Sandown fixture on 25 April gone ahead.

The British Horseracing Authority is dealing with the fallout from racing's suspension and has yet to announce its ruling on the championships.

Hughes would be the first champion other than Johnson or AP McCoy since Richard Dunwoody 25 years ago and the first northern-based winner since Jonjo O'Neill in 1980.

"It is what it is. You can't change reality," the 34-year-old told the Yorkshire Post. "It's frustrating from a personal point of view because you're riding to finish the season and there was some good racing to come - Aintree, Ayr, Perth.

"But in the global scale of things it is not very important to other people because their lives are at stake. It is a crisis for the whole world and there's not a lot we can do at the minute."

Johnson had been champion since winning the title in 2016 after finishing runner-up in 16 seasons to 20-time winner McCoy.

While British racing is suspended, Irish action has continued behind closed doors.

Jockey Ben Harvey claimed his first winner when taking the Ulster Grand National aboard 25-1 shot Space Cadet at Downpatrick on Sunday.

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