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Richard Hughes returns to the saddle today determined to make up lost ground in his quest for the jockey’s title. On his first day back riding after a 50-day suspension incurred during a winter stint in India, Hughes is doubling up with three mounts at Lingfield and a further four at Kempton this evening.
He says he is both excited and apprehensive. “It’s like having my first ride all over again. I’m obviously excited but, if I’m being honest, I’m feeling a bit of apprehension as well. I’m not worried about coming back, though, and I know that once I get back into the weighing room and then start racing again I’ll feel like I’ve never been away.”
If he is to secure the championship he has a 16-winner deficit to overcome. Joe Fanning and Ryan Moore currently have that many winners each, with Moore benefiting from Hughes’ absence by riding 6 of his winners for Richard Hannon, Hughes’ boss. Hannon has made his usual flying start, and heads the trainers’ table on 26.
The jockey is optimistic about getting off the mark today, but reckons his best chance is late this evening, on Netley Marsh, in the 8.35 at Kempton.
The suspension not been his first extended break from the sport: in 2001 he broke his leg and was out of action for six months. But Hughes has no worries about his fitness. He says, “I ‘m naturally quite fit and when I had an MOT in India over the winter the doctor couldn’t believe how low my heart rate was after running for 20 minutes. My weight is also pretty good and I’ve been working hard on it for the last week. I’ll arrive at Lingfield at about 8st 9lb or 8st 10lb and I’ve been careful not to take any light rides straightaway.”