YORKSHIRE jockey Brian Hughes recorded a century of winners for the third successive season when Mount Mews prevailed on day one of Doncaster’s Sky Bet meeting.
The in-form rider is on course to surpass his career-best tally of 106 victories two years ago – the current National Hunt campaign continues until the end of April.
More than 40 winners behind reigning champion Richard Johnson in this year’s title race, Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson’s stable jockey is proud that he is second in the standings.
“I don’t know what I was doing last year. I said to Tom O’Ryan – God bless him – at Newbury that when I got the 100 up last year, I proved it wasn’t a fluke,” said Hughes.
“To get to 100 is a goal I set – for myself and my agent – and I know that if I can get to 100 we’re doing okay. People have been talking about champion jockey and all that, but Richard Johnson is a worthy champion and I’m just happy to ride 100 winners.
“I had a slow start because I missed the first month of the season due to injury, but I’ve had a good autumn. My partnership with Mr Jefferson is massive for me. You can rely on him to produce 30-40 winners a season. It’s great to pick up nice spare rides from others, but you always need a good base.
“My target for the rest of the season would be just to stay in one piece. Hopefully I’ll ride a couple of big winners – maybe one at Cheltenham that would be great.”
Hughes will be aboard the Jefferson-trained Cloudy Dream in today’s Grade Two Sky Bet Lightning Novices Chase over two miles.
Victorious in his first two chase starts, Cloudy Dream had a short lay-off after finishing a fine second to the highly-regarded Buveur D’Air at Haydock six weeks ago.
Though Brian Ellison’s Forest Bihan is a worthy opponent, Jefferson is pleased with his charge who holds two novice chase entries at the Cheltenham Festival.
“He’s in good order,” said Jefferson. “He has won on soft, but he is a better horse on better ground. He had a little break after Haydock and we’ve got him back in grand nick.”
Meanwhile, Ireland’s all-conquering trainer Willie Mullins revs up his Cheltenham artillery when the remarkable Vroum Vroum Mag makes the journey across the Irish Sea for the olbg.com Doncaster Mares’ Hurdle.
Three years after stablemate and subsequent Champion Hurdle heroine Annie Power won the corresponding race, this contest will help determine the mare’s target at the National Hunt Festival. Victorious in 12 of her 14 starts over hurdles and fences, Rich and Susannah Ricci’s horse is so versatile that she currently holds entries in all five blue riband races at Cheltenham – the Champion Hurdle, Stayers’ Hurdle, Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup. She’s also in the Mares Hurdle which she won last year under Ruby Walsh and whose able deputy, Paul Townend, will be in the saddle for today’s two-mile test.