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Skelton edges further clear of Hughes in jockeys’ championship

Harry Skelton appears almost certain to be crowned champion jockey for the first time on Saturday after extending his lead over Brian Hughes to eight with a double at Hexham on Monday.

Both Skelton and Hughes headed to Northumberland with a strong book of rides, with reigning champion Hughes in desperate need of a big day as he began the afternoon six winners behind ahead of the conclusion of the season this weekend.

However, it was Skelton who strengthened his already-considerable grip on the title race by landing the second and third races of the day, while Hughes drew a blank.

The pair fought out a thrilling finish to the Hexham Britain’s Most Scenic Racecourse ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle, with Skelton and brother Dan teaming up with 8-11 favourite Dazzling Glory.

Hughes threw everything he had at the Donald McCain-trained Geromino after the final flight, but came off second best by a head.

Skelton and Hughes also filled the first two places in the following kingmakerracedays.co.uk Working With Susan Corbett Racing Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Brian Hughes faces an uphill battle to retain his crown
Brian Hughes faces an uphill battle to retain his crown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

However, while it was not entirely plain sailing for Skelton aboard the 2-5 favourite Dragon Bones as she hung right on the approach to the final flight, she was well on top as she passed the post with just over four lengths in hand over the Hughes-ridden Little Actress.

With their respective tallies of 148 and 140 winners for the campaign, Skelton and Hughes are Sedgefield on Tuesday to continue their battle, with both riding in all seven races on the card.

There was a minute’s silence before racing and all jockeys wore black armbands as a mark of respect to amateur rider Lorna Brooke, who tragically died on Sunday after being airlifted to hospital following a fall at Taunton 10 days earlier.

Aidan MacDonald’s condition improves

Conditional jockey Aidan MacDonald is reported to be making positive progress after being taken ill a fortnight after a crashing fall at Hexham last month.

MacDonald was riding the Micky Hammond-trained Russian Royale in the Welcome To Hexham 2021 Conditional Jockeys’ Mares’ Handicap Hurdle on March 18 when falling three flights from home.

While he went to hospital on the day and was later discharged, he was readmitted after being taken ill on Wednesday.

MacDonald was said to be in a critical condition and receiving treatment for a suspected carotid artery dissection on Thursday, but Hammond issued a more upbeat bulletin on Friday.

The trainer tweeted: “Update on Aidan MacDonald – the bleed has now been cleared. He is speaking in sentences and can feel and move his fingers. A long road ahead but what a warrior, we still ask for privacy for his family at this difficult time. But what positive news.”

Aidan MacDonald in critical condition following Hexham fall

Conditional jockey Aidan MacDonald is in a critical condition in hospital after being taken ill a fortnight on from a crashing fall at Hexham last month.

MacDonald was riding the Micky Hammond-trained Russian Royale in the Welcome To Hexham 2021 Conditional Jockeys’ Mares’ Handicap Hurdle on March 18 when falling three flights from home.

While he went to hospital on the day and was later discharged, he has been readmitted after being taken ill on Wednesday.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Injured Jockeys Fund said: “Conditional Jockey Aidan MacDonald had a fall at Hexham racecourse on March 18 and went to the RVI (Royal Victoria Infirmary) in Newcastle, from where he received extensive testing and was subsequently discharged.

“Yesterday, after being taken ill, he went in an ambulance to the James Cook Middlesbrough Hospital. He is in a critical condition and receiving active treatment for a suspected carotid artery dissection.

“Aidan’s parents kindly ask for privacy at this difficult time.”