HARRY Skelton's odds for a first jockeys' crown were slashed on Tuesday night after a stunning treble at Southwell.
The top jock moved two clear of defending champ Brian Hughes in the standings and is now 1-5 (from 3-10) with Coral.
Skelton now has 139 winners with 10 days of the season remaining, with Hughes, now a 10-3 shot, currently on the 137 mark.
The championship has become a two-horse race after Harry Cobden, who had an outside chance, announced yesterday that he will miss the rest of the season through injury.
Skelton had seven rides at Southwellwhile Hughes had six – but the latter blanked giving Skelton a big advantage.
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His first winner came aboard the long odds-on favourite Fidelio Vallis (3-10f) for 11-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
He followed up with a double for Caroline Bailey, steering Just A Deal (15-8f) to an easy winner before Begin The Luck (5-1) won the final race on the card.
Coral's David Stevens said: "With 10 days to go until the end of the season, Brian Hughes will not be giving up his title without a fight.
"But a Southwell treble for Harry Skelton has very much put one of his hands on the championship."
The betting is the same with Ladbrokes, who's spokesperson said: “A Southwell treble has put Harry Skelton two winners in front of Brian Hughes in the jockeys’ title race.
"He’s been stalking the defending champion for a number of days without managing to get past him and now he has it looks like the writing could be on the wall for Hughes, given the strength of the stables behind Skelton’s bid.”
Skelton has never hidden his desire to win a jockeys' title, having come close in 2018-19 when second to Richard Johnson, and he admitted he is feeling 'tense'.
He said: "The support I'm getting is fantastic so I'm very thankful to everyone that's chipped in and helped me. Hopefully now we can keep pushing.
"We haven't been here before [two clear]. There's a long way to go and a lot of things can happen but I've got good people around me.
"I must say thanks to Bridget [Skelton, wife] at home. She's dealt with a lot over the last few weeks – it's been very tense."
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