London (AFP) - British champion jump jockey Richard Johnson said Brian Hughes would be a deserving winner of this season's crown after his hopes of catching his title rival were dashed by the coronavirus shutdown.
Four-time defending champion Johnson had made a speedy return from a broken arm to try and overhaul Hughes but the British Horseracing Authority's (BHA's) decision to suspend the season until the end of April has ended his hopes.
The 11-month National Hunt season was due to end on April 25.
Johnson tweeted that Hughes deserved the title. The Northern Irishman led the 2019 champion by 19 wins when racing was suspended last week.
Hughes would be the first jockey other than Johnson or AP McCoy to be crowned champion since Richard Dunwoody in 1995.
"Brian is champion and he deserves it," tweeted Johnson.
"We'll be trying to win it back next year," added the 42-year-old.
Johnson has ruled the roost since winning his first title in 2016 after finishing runner-up on 16 occasions to 20-time champion McCoy.
Hughes, who has accrued 141 victories this season, told the Yorkshire Post that he was frustrated but that there were bigger issues at stake.
"In the global scale of things it is not very important to other people because their lives are at stake," he said.
"It is a crisis for the whole world and there's not a lot we can do at the minute."
The BHA said last week that no decision had yet been made on how the jockey championship would be decided.