The jockey, who resides in Carlton-in-Cleveland, has long had a second show jumping jockey title in the bag, but this week he completed a magical double when he rode his 200th winner of the season in Perth.
It marked the end of a long odyssey, mainly around the slopes of the north of England for the 36-year-old Hughes, whose previous season record was 146 in 2018-19.
It also put him in an exclusive club of riders who have ridden 200 winners in a season, the incomparable Sir AP McCoy, Peter Scudamore and Richard Dunwoody.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post on Thursday, the day after his third trip on the Scottish track, Donald McCain’s Dreams Of Home, the 6-4 favorite in the Bob Nelson Capercaillie Handicap Chase, put him in the history books, Hughes said : “It’s a relief more than anything.
“I will be proud of it for years to come when I look back on my career. I always admired AP [McCoy]Richard Dunwoody and Tony Dobbin too, because they were riders based in Northern Ireland, but also Dickie Johnson when I started riding and Peter Scudamore too.
“AP, Richard and Peter are the ones who have ridden 200 before, so it’s something I’m proud of.”
When it was mentioned that we might now add his name to the illustrious list, Hughes quipped, “I think I’ve toned it down!”
There was a National Hunt ‘Hall of Fame’ in Perth to see hard-working Hughes achieve his feat, with McCoy, Scudamore and last year’s champion Harry Skelton in attendance, along with Flat legend Willie Carson.
The quintet lined up for a photograph together, with the Northern Ireland-born cyclist admitting: “I don’t buy many photos, but I think I’ll have to buy that one!”
The Perth crowd also gave Hughes a rousing reception after his victory over Donald McCain’s horse, and his fellow jockeys and valet applauded him as he returned to the winner’s enclosure.
He said, “I’m not a very emotional person, but I must admit I was moved. Everybody came out and cheered me on and, to be fair, I was a bit taken aback.”
Having already claimed the 2020 champion crown, he was overtaken by the aforementioned Skelton last season, despite holding a 21 stage lead, but there was never much doubt this campaign and he leads Skelton by 101 this morning.
“A lot of factors go into getting 200 winners,” said Hughes, who has Grade 1 and Grand National winning trainer McCain to thank for more than half of his winning run.
“You need a good agent [Richard Hale], good stables and horses to ride, a bit of luck with injuries and suspensions, and the weather can also play a part. Many things have to come together. It’s not an easy thing, so I’m delighted to have achieved it.”
His season record last night, after a 32-1 treble in Perth, was 204 winners 161 seconds 147 thirds, also racking up around £1.9m in prize money.
The jockey, who did not take part in either the Cheltenham Festival or the Grand National, set himself a target of 100 winners at the start of the campaign and was keen to share the credit for his success.
He said: “We have a great team in all the yards I race for and the people I race for. They have a good group of people who work with the horses, and to be honest, without those people, this game would not exist.
“Without the preparation and care of the horses, the sport would not exist and it is very important to remember the stable staff and the people who make it possible.
“Every single winner I’ve had has been really important to the total, so it would be a mistake to single out one particular ride.”
McCain himself was quick to salute Hughes’ achievement saying: “It’s a great credit to him, he never misses a thing, he’s the best professional. He is well deserved and a mark of honor.”
And so to Sandown today, where the jockey has a five-ride book at the end of the season showpiece and will receive his championship trophy in front of packed stands unlike in 2020, when Covid hit and the former jockey and ITV presenter Mick Fitzgerald had to bring the trophy to North Yorkshire for him.
Hughes admitted: “This time it will be a little different, last year we were still behind closed doors, but this time the crowd will be back.
“My family will be there and a team will be traveling from Yorkshire, many from Ireland and my sisters will be coming from…
More about this article: Read More
This notice was published: 2022-04-23 09:27:38