All-Weather Championships: Danny Muscutt and Kevin Stott put best friend tag on hold for jockey’s title fight
Danny Muscutt and Kevin Stott have been the best of friends since meeting at the National Horseracing College in Doncaster as teenage wannabes.
A decade later the talented riders find themselves locked in an enthralling battle to become champion jockey on the All-Weather – a battle that could go right to the wire on Finals Day at Newcastle on Good Friday, live on Sky Sports Racing.
Stott was the run-away leader at the half-way point, opening up a 15-winner advantage over Muscutt, but his quietly determined rival steadily closed the gap before taking a decisive four-winner lead by the mid-March break.
“It would be nice to win it,” says the brilliant yet often understated Muscutt. “Especially as it wasn’t something I particularly set out to do back in the autumn. It would be a nice reward for sticking around all winter.”
Stott, whose steely determination has won new admirers, is equally philosophical. “It would be a good thing to have on my CV, especially after being in front for so long,” he adds. “But, if it doesn’t happen for me I’ll be delighted for Dan. He’s a top rider, a good friend and deserves all the success he gets.”
Such is the respect these two young men have for one another that the intense rivalry you might expect at this stage of the title race is paled by mutual admiration. After all, they did cut their teeth together at jockey school before both going on to achieve success at the highest level.
How the Championship battle has unfolded
October – Stott 10; Muscutt 5
November – Stott 25; Muscutt 13
December – Stott 40; Muscutt 25
January – Stott 55; Muscutt 42
February – Stott 61; Muscutt 60
March – Stott 64; Muscutt 68
“There isn’t much banter between us to be truthful,” adds Muscutt. “We just turn up every day and try to ride as many winners as we can but I’m sure Kevin doesn’t need reminding that I’ve been looking over his shoulder.”
“We haven’t really talked about it,” insists Stott, who not only roomed with Muscutt at the Racing College but also stayed with him in Newmarket a few years ago during a brief spell with former trainer Luca Cumani. “Whatever the outcome we’ll be delighted for each other. That’s just the way it is.”
Muscutt appears to have the momentum after sweeping into the lead with little more than two weeks of Season 10 remaining. He has ridden 43 of his 68 winners since the turn of the year in comparison to Stott’s 24.
“I had a great February but in the last two or three weeks it’s been tough getting rides for all of us,” he explains. “There hasn’t been a huge amount of spares but the Newmarket yards I ride for are getting busy now so I’m hoping they’ll have plenty of strong ammunition for me.”
By contrast, Stott has endured a quiet start to 2023 and admits it’s become difficult to get on a regular supply of winners.
“The opportunities just haven’t been there like they were in the first few months of the season. My link-up with George Boughey was highly productive but George just didn’t have the runners through January and February when Dan was getting on plenty of winners,” he reflects.
In fact, Boughey has provided him with only six winners since the beginning of the year compared to 19 at a remarkable strike rate of 25 per cent in the opening months of the season.
“I can’t possibly try any harder,” says Stott. “My partner Meg (Nicholls) has done a great job as my agent but the winners are getting harder to come by. All we can do is our best and see what happens come Good Friday.”
Whilst the two riders chase a first ever career title, both are quick to point out that they will be happily distracted by the imminent start of the new Flat Season, which promises so much at this stage of their burgeoning careers.
Stott’s dominance of the All-Weather Championships has already won him a lucrative position as first jockey to the emerging power that is Amo Racing – a role that will almost certainly require him to be at Doncaster for the start of the Turf campaign on April 1.
“The All-Weather has given me the chance to showcase my talents this winter after turning freelance and being in the limelight helped me get my job with Kia (Joorabchian), which I’m really excited about,” adds Stott.
“Naturally I’ll be disappointed if I don’t win the title after leading for so long but my new role will more than make up for it. That alone has made all the constant travelling and hard work worthwhile.”
For Muscutt, a second productive winter in succession has simply maintained the momentum he built through 2022 when he recorded his best ever annual tally of 127 winners. Thanks largely to the support of James Fanshawe and Kevin Philippart De Foy, he resumes in pole position.
“It’s a bit of a balancing act because I can’t keep my eye on one ball now,” he says. “I’ll be riding on the Turf as well before Good Friday but it’s a nice position to be in to be contending for the title so I’m not complaining.”
Both jockeys are hoping to set the seal on such a memorable winter campaign with a Championship success on Good Friday. Muscutt rides Ziggy in the Easter Classic, while Stott pins his hopes on Fleurman in the Marathon Final.
“Fleurman really impressed me in a Fast-Track Qualifier at Wolverhampton the other day,” he adds. “He had a lot to find at the weights with the reigning champion Earlofthecotswolds but came within a whisker of beating him.
“Olly (Murphy) has done a great job with this horse who is clearly improving at the right time. We know the big track at Newcastle suits him so I’m hoping for the best.”
Muscutt also feels he has a winning chance on Harry Eustace’s Ziggy.
“He ran well in a qualifier at Newcastle earlier in the season but wasn’t quite himself at Kempton last time. The leader went off like the clappers and drew the sting out of all of us but Harry’s freshened him up nicely.”
There’s no doubt a taste of victory for both riders on such a marquee day for All-Weather racing would be a fitting finale to what has been a compelling battle between two of the finest talents in the weighing room. A battle that may yet provide a captivated audience with another twist or turn.