Brian Hughes favourite for title hat-trick
Top Northern jockey Brian Hughes will start a hot favourite to complete a hat-trick of titles as leading rider at Cartmel, whose 2018 season gets under way on Saturday, the first day of the traditional three-day Whit weekend fixture.
Hughes has dominated at Cartmel in recent seasons, winning the Jockeys Challenge for leading rider in three of the last four years. He missed out in 2015 when finishing third to Richard Johnson.
Nobody rides the track as well as Hughes and with plenty of winners on the board for this season already, he looks sure to be a major player again this summer.
However, he will not have things all his own way with rising star Henry Brooke promising to put down another stern challenge this season. Brooke has been knocking at the door in recent years, finishing runner-up in each of the last three seasons.
Johnson, who could ride at Cartmel this weekend, will also have plenty to say on the destination of the prize, a luxury weekend for two people in the superb Swan Hotel and Spa, which nestles on the southern tip of Lake Windermere.
And a new challenger this year could be James Bowen, who burst on to the National Hunt scene when riding his first ever winner under Rules at the equivalent meeting 12 months ago.
He finished his first season with a staggering 58 winners to his name and the teenage sensation has carried that form on this season with eight winners putting him in the top six in the championship.
The big question for Bowen will be whether he rides often enough at Cartmel through the summer, although his father Peter, despite training in south-west Wales, is a fairly regular visitor to the Cumbrian course.
Racing begins at Cartmel this Saturday with the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Novices Hurdle launching a seven race card. The fixture continues with the second stage next Monday and winds up with the third day of the Whit fixture on Wednesday, May 30.