Jumps season review: Who were the horse, jockey and trainer of the year?

That was the jumps season that was…

Horse of the year

Tiger Roll ridden by jockey Davy Russell
Tiger Roll ridden by jockey Davy Russell

Has to be Tiger Roll for becoming the first horse since Red Rum in the 1970s to win back-to-back stagings of the Grand National, a feat that was achieved in great style, with jockey Davy Russell riding, barely three weeks after landing a fourth success at the Cheltenham Festival.

It will be widely hoped that the nine-year-old, trained by Gordon Elliott for aviation tycoon Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud racing arm, will return to Aintree in 2020 looking for the hat-trick - but O'Leary has been cautious about plans.

Race of the year

Jockey Bryony Frost riding Frodon
Jockey Bryony Frost riding Frodon

A photo finish between the two races staged within 45 minutes of each other that made day three of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival one of the most memorable Festival days in years.

First, jockey Bryony Frost and Frodon battled back after losing the lead to snatch victory from Aso, ridden by Charlie Deutsch, in a breathless finish to the Ryanair Chase. And if that wasn't heady enough, in the following race, jockey Aidan Coleman galvanised Paisley Park from a pretty unpromising position to, it seemed, almost fly through the closing stages to claim the Stayers Hurdle crown.

Jockey of the year

Jockey Richard Johnson riding on Native River
Jockey Richard Johnson riding on Native River

Despite suggestions that he might struggle to resist the advance of Harry Skelton, Richard Johnson's dominance since the retirement of perennial champion AP McCoy, to whom he was runner-up no fewer than 16 times, continued for him to claim a fourth champion jockey's title of his own.

Talk has turned now to the 41-year-old targeting McCoy's career total of 4,348 national hunt wins - he ended the 2018-19 campaign on 3,622. But Johnson is playing down that possibility, saying: "Being something like 700 behind is a long way away, but it's a lovely thing to think about. I think we'll make 4,000 the target for the time being."

Breakthrough jockey of the year (1)

Jockey Bryony Frost poses with the trophy after she rides Frodon to victory during the 2019 Ryanair Chase
Jockey Bryony Frost with the trophy after she rode Frodon to victory during the 2019 Ryanair Chase

Being champion conditional jockey - national hunt apprentice, if you like - and only the second female rider to win that, is clearly a springboard to potentially great things.

But Bryony Frost has much more than just that title to indicate that she has the brightest of futures ahead of her, both in and out of the saddle. Alongside her infectious personality and turn of phrase has been talent aplenty with a string of good wins, notably on Frodon at the Cheltenham Festival.

Breakthrough jockey of the year (2)

Jockey Sean Quinlan

It may seem a bit odd to be applauding a rider here who is closing in on veteran status, but Sean Quinlan has enjoyed by far his best ever season at the age of 35.

Quinlan, winner of Scotland's version of the Grand National at Ayr on Takingrisks, used to have a reputation as a journeyman jockey with something of a wild side - he had been in a few scrapes - but he is now reaping the rewards for being "tamed" (his word) by girlfriend Lizzie Butterworth.

Best newcomers

Jockey Jonjo O'Neill Jr
Jockey Jonjo O'Neill Jr

When you are the son of an iconic former champion jockey like Jonjo O'Neill - now a successful trainer - there is big pressure to deliver, but Jonjo Jr is doing just great, and it is interesting that he has caught the eye of the powerful Colin Tizzard stable, which is all over him.

Talking of catching the eye, it has been notable that Connor Brace has been given a chance or two by another stellar stable, that of Nicky Henderson, while Rex Dingle and Tommy Dowson have made good impressions too.

Trainer of the year

Horse trainer Dan Skelton
Dan Skelton became only the second trainer to send out a double century of winners

Although Paul Nicholls wrested back the title he had won 10 times previously from Nicky Henderson after two seasons, my trainer of the year title goes to Nicholls' protege Dan Skelton for becoming only the second trainer to send out a double century of winners (eventually 205).

To marshal the vast number of horses under his care to achieve, in just six seasons with a licence, a total that has so far eluded all but the now-retired Martin Pipe is simply remarkable. And although Skelton, 34, backed by a team including his jockey younger brother Harry and Olympic gold medal-winning father Nick, will be looking to gradually achieve more quality alongside the quantity, another 200 will be the aim in the next campaign.

Racehorse owner of the year

Racehorse owner Andrew Gemmell
Andrew Gemmell (left) at the Cheltenham Festival

Must be Andrew Gemmell, owner of the champion long-distance hurdler Paisley Park, trained by Emma Lavelle.

Despite being blind since birth, Gemmell is the most enthusiastic of sports fans, particularly of horse racing, which has the on-site advantage to him of generally providing such comprehensive commentary on the loudspeaker system. Refusing to let his blindness stop him doing what he loves is truly inspirational.

Racecourse of the year

Leopardstown racecourse

A hard one because so many do such a good job, but I'm going to Ireland to give this to Leopardstown, which staged the second Dublin Racing Festival over two days in early February.

The combination of high-quality races and a spectacular atmosphere - enhanced by Ireland playing England in the Six Nations that same weekend, but not at the same time - made it all as enjoyable as it was informative.

Villain of the year

A photo finish between the outbreak of equine flu that caused racing to be closed down for five days in February, and the unseasonably dry winter that for weeks on end all but ruled out the softer ground conditions that jump racing favours.

Top scorer of the year

Nico de Boinville riding Altior
Nico de Boinville riding Altior

Altior made it five out of five for the season and, more importantly, 19 wins in a row, breaking the record of the prolific hurdler Big Buck's, when successful in the two-mile Celebration Chase at Sandown. He has never been defeated in a race over hurdles or steeplechase fences, and the list of 1s in his form figures goes back to the end of April 2015, when he was beaten in a national hunt flat race at Punchestown.

A genuine champion, Altior's stamina is to be tested in longer races in future, with the three-mile King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, and then maybe the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup - staged over a quarter-mile further, and uphill - on his agenda.

Retiree of the year

Jockey Noel Fehily
Noel Fehily has retired aged 43

It's hard to recall life without jockey Noel Fehily's name regularly appearing on the race card, but the 43-year-old, who first held a licence in his native Ireland during the 1991-92 season, called it a day.

All sorts of sometimes dubious plaudits are bandied around when a big name retires, but, for his illustrious career and the manner in which he conducted himself, Fehily certainly earned all of the words said about him. Stars including Silviniaco Conti, Buveur D'Air, Rock On Ruby and Special Tiara have all been associated with him.

Horse most anticipated for future

Rachael Blackmore riding A Plus Tard
Rachael Blackmore riding A Plus Tard

To the list of Tiger Roll, Paisley Park and Altior, please add A Plus Tard, a very striking, wide-margin novices' chase winner at the Cheltenham Festival, ridden by Rachael Blackmore.

That was one of two Festival victories for Blackmore, who has also given Paul Townend a real run for his money in the race to be the Irish jumps season's champion jockey.

That's all for now folks, for five days - it all starts again on Friday 3 May, back at Cheltenham.