Has Brian Hughes ridden a winner at the Cheltenham Festival?
The short answer is yes, he certainly has. In fact, he has ridden three. Hughes opened his Cheltenham Festival account on 33/1 chance Hawk High, owned by the late Trevor Hemmings and trained by Tim Easterby, in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle in 2014. Two years later, he doubled his tally when winning the Close Brothers Novices’ Chase on Ballyalton, trained by Ian Williams. Two years later still, in 2018, he won the same race again, on Mister Whitaker, trained by Mick Channon.
Hughes, 36, won the conditional jockeys’ title in 2007/08 and the senior jump jockeys’ title in 2019/20, making him the first jockey based in the North of England to do so since the legendary Jonjo O’Neill four decades previously. Remarkably, though, despite riding 1,443 winners at the last count – including over a hundred in every season since 2015/16 – Brian Hughes has just one Grade 1 winner to his name. His solitary success at the highest level came aboard the aptly-named Waiting Patiently, trained by Ruth Jefferson, in the Betfair Ascot Chase in February, 2018.
Nevertheless, Hughes has amassed well over £1 million in prize money in each of the last five seasons. He currently leads the 2021 jump jockeys’ championship with 63 winners from 334 rides, at a strike rate of 21%, and is currently long odds-on to be crowned champion jockey for a second time when Saturday, April 23, 2022 rolls around.