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Can anyone stop Sean Bowen in the National Hunt Jockey's Championship?

Sean Bowen is seemingly on a march towards becoming champion jockey in Britain for the first time in his career, but can anyone catch the runaway leader?

Bowen joked earlier on in the season that he doesn't want to become the "Arsenal of the weighing room" after opening up a lead in his quest to displace Brian Hughes as the leading rider over jumps.

The 26-year-old is edging close to a century of winners for the season and is boasting an impressive 25% strike-rate from more than 350 rides.

Hughes, Harry Cobden, Sam Twiston-Davies and former champion Harry Skelton will be amongst those trying to chase Bowen down, but they have a mammoth task on their hands already.

Finding his way amongst the pros

Bowen has been on the scene for some time and comes from excellent racing stock. His father, Peter, is a trainer and his brother, James, an accomplished rider.

After excelling in point-to-points and winning the Conditional Jockey's Championship in 2015, Bowen has gained his experience in the professional ranks steadily. 

He won the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree in 2019 on If The Cap Fits for Harry Fry, getting the better of mares Roksana and Apple's Jade in an absolute thriller. 

Fry has been a consistent supporter and they teamed up once more for Grade 1 glory as Metier won the Tolworth Hurdle in 2021.

He is now close to 800 career winners and in 2022 he got his first calendar year century with 118 winners. He's already surpassed that number in 2023 and still has two full busy months in the meat of the National Hunt season to come.

Bowen takes aim at Jockey's title

There's been no masking the fact that Bowen is making a concerted bid for the Jockey's Championship this season.

When the season restarted in May he partnered 18 winners, but it was in June and July - when plenty of jumps riders are having some kind of a break - that Bowen really kicked on.

He had 23 winners in June and a stunning 26 from 68 rides in July for a strike-rate in excess of 38% over that month.

At the height of that summer spree, his father strongly suggested that confidence was breeding success, both for the jockey and his mounts.

"He is riding with so much confidence and I'm sure that is passing through to the horses. I just hope he keeps going," said the Pembrokeshire-based handler.

August (7) and September (9) were a little quieter, but that's understandable as the summer jumps programme runs down and there's a gap before the big names start to re-emerge.

He has already bettered his monthly tally in October compared to the two preceding months.

Trainers eager to support Bowen

Bowen has earned a reputation as being amongst the best pound-for-pound riders in Britain. Trainers know what they are getting when they put him up and, consequently, there's no shortage of suitors looking to use him.

So far in 2023 he has ridden winners for a stunning 27 different trainers.

His father plays a big role and has supplied him with 32 winners so far in 2023, with only Olly Murphy topping that total (39).

Bowen can also regularly look forward to getting the leg up on Gordon Elliott's UK raiders and he's in double figures already this year for the Irishman, operating at a strike-rate of 28 per cent in their alliance.

It's all systems go for Bowen and he's now 2/5 to be crowned Britain's champion rider over jumps for the first time come the bet365 Jumps Finale at Sandown in April.

Hughes and Cobden the main dangers

Hughes has been top dog in three of the four seasons since Richard Johnson retired and is now 4/1 to complete a hat-trick of Jockeys title wins this season.

He's got more than 30 winners to make up on Bowen, but there's no doubt the champ will get his fair share in the coming months as the season goes up through the gears.

Cobden, priced at 7/2, is close to his own half-century for the season and has talked about a possible title challenge too.

Stable jockey to Paul Nicholls, he has to juggle his responsibilities at Ditcheat with the desire for outside winners and that - for now - may hold him back.

Sam Twiston-Davies once held that position with Britain's perennial champion trainer, but is now a freelancer, regularly teaming up with dad Nigel and a wide array of trainers to find winners, including the likes of Richard Newland, Sam Thomas and Neil Mulholland.

He is, however, a 100/1 chance in the Jockey's championship betting.

So, too, is 2020/21 champ Harry Skelton after a very quiet summer - he missed June and July completely - left him with a numerical mountain to climb that will surely prove impossible.

As the racing commentary saying goes, Bowen's lead is now so big that the dangers are in front of him and not behind - if he steers clear of injury the title looks like his to lose.

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