Hughes gearing up for title defence

Brian Hughes is expecting his jump jockeys’ title defence to take off when winter hits and the new season begins in earnest.

Hughes won his first championship this April, chalking up 141 victories in a season which was prematurely ended by the coronavirus outbreak.

Already leading the table with 36 victories this season, which began in July, Hughes will again be riding for several prolific northern trainers throughout the jumps calendar.

Brian Hughes celebrates on board Ballyalton after victory in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase the 2016 Cheltenham Festival
Brian Hughes celebrates on board Ballyalton after victory in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival (David Davies/PA)

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“We’ve had an OK start, and it has been steady for the last month because the winter horses are not quite ready,” he said.

“I’ve got all of Donald (McCain’s) and Nicky’s (Richards) to come – and I ride plenty for Brian Ellison, James Ewart and Keith Dalgleish – so I will have plenty of horses to go to war with.”

Hughes’ key challenger is of course likely to be four-time champion Richard Johnson, whose chances of winning a fifth title last season were interrupted by a broken arm in January.

Johnson currently sits seventh in the table with 23 victories, but Hughes knows the real battle will begin later in the campaign.

Simply Ned (right) ridden by Brian Hughes in the Shloer Chase during the November Meeting at Cheltenham
Simply Ned (right), ridden by Brian Hughes, in the Shloer Chase during the November Meeting at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of trying to win it again,” he said.

“It’s not going to be easy – because a lot of the other lads, with the different set-up over the summer, are a lot closer, but that is what sport is about.

“I’ve just got to keep my head down, keep safe, fit and healthy and simply try my best.

“At the end of the day, I will just worry about myself and try to do the best job I can do, and I imagine the other lads will be trying to do the same.”

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