Rising horse-racing star Craig Nichol ended a superb jump racing season with the ultimate honour for a conditional jockey.
The 22-year-old claimed the Stobart Champion Conditional Jockey Award with relative ease and cemented his name as the one of the top young jump riders in the sport heading into the new season.
The former Keith Dalgleish apprentice startlet, previously with Lucinda Russell, beat out the chasing pack, led by Harry Cobden, by six winners and collected the award from former champion jump jockey, Richard Johnson, at Sandown Park.
Nichol told the Hawick News this week: “It was a huge honour, an achievement I never would have thought possible at the start of the season back in April.
“At the start of the season, I never thought to myself that at the end of it, I would be picking up this award and sharing a stage with one of the best jockeys in the world, Richard Johnson.
“Being handed the award by him was itself such a great moment for me. He is one of the best riders in the business and someone I really look up to.”
The win nets Nichol £5,000, the biggest payday of his three-year career, along with a commemorative framed highlight reel of his most notable victories from the past season.
“It’s the biggest cash win of my career, but I’m not looking at the award from a money side of things,” he added.
“To have my name alongside some of the best jump jockeys who won this award when they were climbing the jockey ladder is amazing and trumps any cash award that came with it.”
Nichol is now among the most recognisable young figures in the sport, winning 36 times over the course of the 12-month season and seems primed for an even higher profile next season when he attempts to navigate his way through the ultra-competitive world of jump racing.
“Next for me is now to keep improving year on year,” he said. “I won 36 times last season, so my goal is to keep growing that number year on year. My target next season is 50 winners. Achieving that would be massive. I will sit down with my agent, Richard Hill, and we will work out what is next for me.
“The summer really isn’t full of much jump racing, so I will pick my way through those that are on, and hopefully when the jump season really gets going, I will have 14 to 17 winners, which will set me up for a great season.”
Craig added that he was very grateful to his mum Wendy and dad Grahame and that his late papa Jake would have been very proud.
He also said how lucky he and his brother Ryan were to keep their ponies at Moira and Ed’s at Kaimend as boys.