Brian Hughes is poised to commence his fourth title bid as champion jockey at the start of the new season.
On the final day of the previous season, Hughes was crowned champion jockey for the third time. He had previously won the title at the end of the 2019-20 season, but was defeated by Harry Skelton the following year before regaining the trophy at the end of the last term.
With 164 winners to his name before racing on Friday, Hughes’ performance this season falls short of last year’s total when he passed the significant milestone of 200 winners ridden in a season, putting him in an exclusive club with Peter Scudamore, AP McCoy, and Richard Hughes. Possible causes for the lower number this term include the cancellation of fixtures due to challenging weather conditions and a slight dip in the form of his mounts.
His partnership with trainer Donald McCain continues to provide success for both parties.
Hughes said: “It’s good to be champion again. Plenty of hard work. We didn’t get to the number we did last year, but we’ll try harder next year!
“We missed a lot of days racing with bad weather, and you’d have to say the horses weren’t running as well as they were the season before, even though they haven’t been running badly.
“We get on great, Donald’s a brilliant trainer. He’s got a great team and a bunch of loyal owners who have supported the yard and me through that.
“It’s great, I enjoy riding Donald’s horses and we’ve had a lot of success throughout the past couple of seasons. Hopefully we’ll have a few more successful seasons to come.”
Hughes attributes his successful career to his agent Richard Hale, who does an excellent job in managing all of his riding commitments for various stables.
“That’s Richard Hale’s job, I have little to do with that,” Hughes said of the organisation of his rides.
“I just play dumb and he sorts it all out! He keeps all the balls in the air and luckily it works, we’ve done it for a few years now and he keeps everything going forwards. ‘I don’t know, speak to Richard’ – that’s my party line!
“He’s been my agent for the last 18 years – he’s a friend as much as an agent. I put total trust in him and what he puts me on, I ride. We never have any problems.”
While he is a frequent presence at northern and midlands racecourses, Hughes occasionally misses some of the sport’s most significant events. Instead, he prefers to take a ride with a winning chance at a smaller meeting rather than partner an also-ran in a high-profile race. This approach has been effective for Hughes, and he sees no merit in taking outside rides with slim chances when there are better opportunities elsewhere.
“Everyone wants to ride the big-race winners and win the competitive races and it’s not that I don’t want to. Donald buys a lot of horses and we’re hoping to drop on a couple of good, Graded horses,” he said.
“If you don’t ride for the people who have them, it makes it fairly hard to get on them.
“I want to be competitive and ride winners, I don’t want to be there for a social runner. When I’m not going to be competitive somewhere, I won’t go. If I’ve got a good ride I’ll be there in a heartbeat.
“I go where I’m required to go, that’s my job. I’m not looking at anyone with envy. Wherever you’re going you want to be competitive, if you can’t get on any good rides then it’s sort of pointless to go.”
At 37, Hughes considers himself to be in the autumn of his career. However, this motivation will propel him to strive for further success during the summer and to pursue a fourth title next year.
“We’ll start and try to get winners on the board. We’ll just just keep rolling on, I don’t have many years left to ride so I’ve got to ride while I can,” he said.
“I’m 38 in June, 40 is not going to be far away. It doesn’t seem like any time at all since I came to England in 2005.
“There’s not many jump jockeys go on much past 40, maybe early 40s but on the Flat they go to 50. I just don’t want to take anything for granted.”