Love Island's Chris Hughes: 'Riding racehorses makes me feel like a cowboy'

Television presenter Chris Hughes lives his life in a whirlwind of work and exercise. But despite his punishing schedule, the unparalleled joy he gets from riding racehorses is something he’ll always find time for.

“Horses find a place in your heart,” admits the former Love Islander, who now presents live horse racing for ITV, and BBC Sport coverage of The Hundred cricket tournament. “It’s the freedom, the escapism – sitting on a horse that’s travelling at 30-40 miles an hour across the fields and up gallops just feels very carefree. You feel like you’re a cowboy.

“It’s a great way of getting up in the morning and getting the fresh air. Add everything together and it’s just a very good vibe, a very good feeling. I absolutely love it.”

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Growing up on a farm in the Cotswolds, Hughes, 30, began riding around age eight and had a couple of ponies himself. He started riding racehorses at 12 or 13, with friends who later became professional jockeys.

Chris Hughes with the racehorse Annie Mc. Credit: Great British Racing/PA.Chris Hughes with the racehorse Annie Mc. Credit: Great British Racing/PA.
Chris Hughes with the racehorse Annie Mc. Credit: Great British Racing/PA.

“I was very blessed to grow up in the area I did, which got me involved in the sport from an early age,” he says, speaking ahead of National Racehorse Week (September 9-17).

Following his stint on Love Island in 2017, where he paired up with Olivia Attwood (they went on to star in reality series Chris And Olivia: Crackin’ On, before they split in 2018), Hughes has forged a busy presenting career.

Despite this however, he tries to ride as often as he can. “It all depends on my schedule,” he says. “I just try to ride as often as I can in different racing yards. And that’s great, I really enjoy that.”

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Hughes also enjoys anything to do with sport and exercise, revealing: “I exercise a lot. I go to the gym six days a week, and I run 30km a week minimum.

Chris Hughes with a racehorse Credit: Great British Racing/PA.Chris Hughes with a racehorse Credit: Great British Racing/PA.
Chris Hughes with a racehorse Credit: Great British Racing/PA.

“I look after myself as much as I can – a big part of my day is my own physical wellbeing,” adds Hughes, who eases his weary muscles with trips to the sauna and steam room four nights a week. “So yeah, I exercise a lot, I train weights a lot, I play tennis a lot, I play golf a lot, I sweat a lot in the sauna. It just all adds up and makes me feel good.”

He does his best to eat healthily, too. “Obviously, the biggest part of looking and feeling great is your diet – about 80 per cent of it’s diet-based. So you’ve got to eat healthily, or it defeats the object of putting in any kind of physical pain.”

Surely with all this hard work and exercise though, he must enjoy a bit of relaxation?

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“Me relaxing?” he says, incredulously. “I don’t really relax – it’s rare! I find it really hard to relax, unless I go away – but even when I go away I’ll be doing something. I’d love to be able to sit down and just chill and be content in my own company and do very little, but if I stay at home and I’ve got a few hours free, I’ll go play nine holes of golf, or I’ll go to the gym or the sauna. Or I’ll go for a run or just find something to do. I can’t sit still.”