John Grossick Racing
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Brian Hughes: congratulated by his weighing room colleagues after riding his 200th winner of the season
John Grossick Racing
By Charlie Huggins
Brian Hughes has joined an elite roll of honor by becoming only the fourth jump jockey to ride 200 winners in a season in Britain.
Hughes, who moved to 199 with a double at Sedgefield on Tuesday, reached the landmark total aboard the Donald McCain-trained Dreams Of Home at Perth on Wednesday to join Sir Anthony McCoy, Richard Johnson and Peter Scudamore in the 200 club.
He said: “I’m very proud. It’s really funny because Dreams Of Home was my 100th winner of the season at Ayr [in November]and it’s great it’s for Donald.
“Obviously I got a lot of support from a lot of trainers, but I was getting a bit twitchy when it was getting hard to find winners.
“It’s not something I ever thought I could achieve, it wasn’t a target. It’s always the aim to ride 100 winners [in a season] and 100 winners is a fair achievement, so it just shows the luck I’ve had and the support I’ve had from the trainers to get to double that.
“The people I ride for, mainly Donald, their horses have been in brilliant form. Without them you’d struggle to ride any winners at all.
“I had a lot of luck this year, thankfully I didn’t have any injuries or suspensions and it all went my way.”
Speaking on the jockeys coming out of the weighing room after his winner, he said: “I’m not a very emotional person, but I must admit that touched me a bit. For everyone to come out and people cheering me in, I was a bit taken back by it, but I really appreciate people’s good wishes.”
Hughes’s previous career-best campaign came when riding 146 winners in 2018-19, the same season when 200 winners was last reached by Johnson.
The 36-year-old became champion jockey for the first time the following season in 2019-20 and, after losing out to Harry Skelton last term, has regained his crown in style and will be presented with his trophy in the season finale at Sandown on Saturday.
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Dreams Of Home clears the water jump on the way to victory at Perth
Hughes’s relentless pursuit of regaining the championship has resulted in him riding winners for 35 different trainers at 24 different tracks this term with longtime supporter McCain providing more than half of his tally with 102 winners.
McCain knows the rider’s worth more than anyone, and said: “I spotted a number of years ago, when I asked him to be a stable jockey, that it’s quite simple: you want him riding for you, not against you.
“Every time you watch a race you see how you want it done. Brian’s exactly where you want to be. That sums him up. He’s as professional and as dedicated as any man I’ve ever met. He’s a team player. He thinks of the long-term benefit of the horses.
“Obviously he gets a bit of stick now and then because he doesn’t go to the big meetings in the south, but his job’s in the north of England. That’s how he’s made his career. He didn’t have anything set in stone , he’s worked very hard to carve himself out a career here.”
Speaking about that work ethic which helped him to reach the top, Hughes said: “It has always been instilled from a young age. In the time at Kevin Prendergast’s we were always taught to work hard, and you get out of this game what you put in. I’m one of the luckier ones who’s been able to make a career out of something you’d nearly do for free.”
Hughes has only failed to reach double figures in two months of the season with October being his most successful with 24 winners. Although quantity has typified his success, he has also enjoyed a Listed winner at Haydock with Barrichello and a Grade 2 victory at the same track with Minella Drama, both for McCain.
More recently, he landed another Listed prize with Nuts Well in the Premier Chase at Kelso for the Hamiltons last month.
John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
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Brian Hughes rides Nuts Well to victory at Kelso last month, one of the jockey’s bigger wins this season
John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
“Everyone in the [McCain] yard has played a massive role this year,” he said. “Donald’s bought the right horses to start with, placed them really well and, without the owners who have reinvested into the yard and all the staff, you’d struggle to have the operation go as smoothly.”
The champion jockey also paid tribute to his agent Richard Hale.
“He has done a phenomenal job this year, and my wife jokes that I speak to Richard more than I speak to her! The winners he’s found and the rides, sometimes I have to admit I half question him, but I’ve always got 100 per cent faith in Richard.”
Hughes now joins Scudamore, who hit a double ton eleven in his career when riding 221 winners in 1988-89, and will undoubtedly be aiming to repeat the feat next season to match Johnson, who rode 200 winners on two occasions in 2015-16 and 2018-19.
McCoy remains clear in the record books with the 20-time champion jockey riding 200 winners in a season a record nine times, including a staggering 289 in 2001-02, a tally that is unlikely to be matched now jockeys are only allowed to ride at one meeting a day.
Speaking of the three jockeys to also ride 200 winners, Hughes said: “I don’t think I’ll ever be matching their totals, but it’s something small that you could say you’ve joined that very elite group.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, he added: “Anyone who knows me knows I would be happy not having a presentation. I don’t like being the center of attention, but there’s a big crew going to Sandown.”
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