Ayr victory sees jockey Brian Hughes reach jump racing milestone

BRIAN Hughes strengthened his grip on jump racing’s 2021-22 title race by recording his 100th winner of the current campaign.

Minella Trump and Brian Hughes in winning action at Catterick last Friday - the jockey has now recorded his 100th victory of the 2021-22 season.

The North Yorkshire rider’s victory on Dreams Of Home at Ayr leaves him 41 winners clear of his pursuers headed by Sam Twiston-Davies.

Only a serious injury stands between Hughes regaining the championship that he won for the first time in 2019-20 before losing out to Harry Skelton last season.

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The first Northern-based jump jockey to be crowned champion since Jonjo O’Neill 40 years previously, Hughes is on course to beat the 146 winners that he accrued in 2018-19.

This was Brian Hughes in winning action aboard Barrichello at Haydock's Betfair Chase meeting last Saturday,

He’s now recorded a century of winners for eight consecutive seasons, an impressive level of consistency, and it is fitting that Dreams Of Home is trained by Donald McCain whose resurgence has helped provide Hughes with the rides to become jump racing’s dominant force in the saddle.

But Hughes says he’s taking nothing for granted – the current campaign does not end until next April.

“It’s great to reach 100 winners already this year,” he said after his fastest-ever century.

“It’s always the first big target to tick off when you set your goals at the start of the season, so to achieve it in November is really encouraging.

Bravemansgame ridden by jockey Harry Cobden on their way to winning the Double Daily Rewards With Betfair Graduation Chase during the Betfair Chase Day at Haydock Park Racecourse.

“The five-timer at Musselburgh was the highlight. They don’t come around too often those days so you have to enjoy them when you have them.

“The ultimate goal remains reclaiming the Championship. Anything can happen during the season, so there is no room to let up from my perspective. I will keep pushing towards the next milestone and continue to ride as many winners as possible.”

The landmark helped compensate Hughes for the disappointment of having to pull up waiting patiently in Haydock’s Betfair Chase that was won in sublime style by Grand National heroine Rachael Blackmore aboard A Plus Tard.

Owned by Richard Collins, the horse was having his first run for Glamorgan-based trainer Christian Williams since leaving Ruth Jefferson’s Malton stables.

The 10-year-old was never travelling after making a mistake at the first fence on quicker than ideal ground and Hughes drew stumps before the fourth-last fence after losing touch.

“There’s not much to say really. He galloped into the first a little bit, then never jumped or travelled after that,” said Williams.

“We’ll have him checked out this week and see if anything comes to light. The ground was probably a bit quick for him, but it would be disappointing to use that as an excuse. We’ll see if anything comes to light and we won’t make any plans until then.”

Meanwhile jockey Harry Cobden has hailed Bravemansgame as the “ultimate professional” following the Grade One-winning hurdler’s victory in a Graduation Chase at Haydock on Saturday previously won by the likes of dual King George hero Clan Des Obeaux.

The horse is co-owned by John Dance, who enjoyed so much success on the Flat with the Karl Burke-trained Laurens, and Bryan Drew.

“He jumps as well as any horse I have ever ridden. That was only his second run over fences and he is an absolute pleasure to ride,” enthused Cobden.

“He is very clever with his jumping. Long or short, he is always spot on and is a very easy horse to ride. We don’t have to make the running – when there are more runners, he could definitely get a lead. He is just the ultimate professional.”

In other news, Epatante will face a maximum of six rivals when she defends her Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle crown at Newcastle on Saturday.

Winner of the 2020 Champion Hurdle, the Nicky Henderson-trained mare made her reappearance in the Gosforth Park feature 12 months ago, recording a stylish success over Sceau Royal.

Meanwhile, allegations of bullying and harassment against jockey Robbie Dunne will be heard by the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority next week.

Six days have been set aside for the hearing which centres around a complaint made by rider Bryony Frost.