Hughes to Bump along at Cheltenham

Sgt Reckless - Richard Hughes Festival ride?

Sgt Reckless - Richard Hughes Festival ride?

You just can’t keep Richard Hughes out of the news at the moment. After returning via Dubai from a winter riding in India to set out his season’s targets at the Stud and Stable Staff Awards (see yesterday’s posting) Hughes announced that he hopes to be in the line up for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper a week today at Cheltenham.

The champion Flat race jockey said that Mick Channon had sounded him out about riding Sgt Reckless in the race. Hughes’ participation will depend on the British Horseracing Authority granting him a jumps licence, and it will be strange if they decline to do that. For one thing, Hughes has ridden over jumps in the past, and indeed, has piloted three horses into placed finishes at Cheltenham.

Hughes said, “I’m just waiting for my licence to come through. Mick likes the horse and he definitely has a chance.” What Sgt reckless does not have is a regular jockey, as Dominic Elsworth and Wayne Kennedy have each ridden him to victory in his only two races.

Secondly, it appears that the BHA have awarded Irish Flat racing champion Joseph O’Brien a licence to ride his father’s entry, Shield. It would be hard to understand why one jockey should receive a licence and not the other.

Another former jump jockey looks set to take his place in the field for the race, as last season’s transfer to the flat, Graham Lee, is lined up to ride Jim Goldie’s Caledonia in the race. How long before there’s the chance to bet on a flat race jockey riding the winner?

When Hughes has confirmation that he can ride at Cheltenham next week, he might well put a call in to his father, Dessie, who is bringing several horses over from Ireland. Clearly he wouldn’t be first choice, but would he make do as a stand in if injury or suspension intervened?

The most fancied Hughes snr horse is JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Our Conor. Hughes has yet to confirm final race plans for Minsk, though he would prefer the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle rather than the Supreme Novices’ event. He said, “He went too hard in front with Champagne Fever on testing ground at Naas last time and we think the better ground over the Neptune trip should suit him.”

The trainer feared it would not be a case of second time lucky for White Star Line, who was runner up to Hunt Ball in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase last year. Hughes would clearly like another tilt at that race, re-named the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase, but thought it unlikely, and quite possible the horse may not get a run at all. He said, “It’s hard to believe that although he is only 8lbs below top weight he’s number 45 in the list, so he’s going to struggle to get in. He’s in the other handicap chases at the meeting, but it could be the same story.”