Brian Hughes on track to emulate Sir Anthony McCoy and become Britain’s champion jump jockey after Richard Johnson breaks arm in Exeter fall
- Jump jockey Brian Hughes has quite a lot in common with Sir Anthony McCoy
- Hughes may share the distinction of being Britain’s champion jump jockey
- His chances increased significantly when Richard Johnson broke his right arm
Brian Hughes has quite a lot in common with Sir Anthony McCoy. He could soon have even more.
Both were born and brought up in Northern Ireland, both have fathers who were carpenters and both grew up outnumbered by sisters — McCoy has four sisters and a brother while Hughes has five sisters.
The chances are that by April 25, the last day of the season, Hughes may also share with McCoy the distinction of being Britain’s champion jump jockey.
Brian Hughes is on course to emulate Sir Anthony McCoy as Britain’s champion jump jockey
Hughes has quite a lot in common with McCoy (pictured) but he could soon have even more
Hughes’ chances were boosted after Richard Johnson (pictured) broke his arm in a fall
His chances increased significantly when reigning champion Richard Johnson broke his right arm in a fall at Exeter on Tuesday. At the time Johnson was behind by three winners, 114-111.
Hughes, 34, insists all is still to play for in the knowledge that an injury-causing fall lies around every corner for a jump jockey and also that a rival with the hunger of four-time champion Johnson will be determined to hunt him down.
But even if Johnson displays the logic-defying resilience of jump jockeys after having his arm plated in an operation on Thursday, Hughes has a chance to build on a lead that stood at six after Friday’s double at Doncaster.
If he can hold on, Hughes would hand a massive boost to jump racing in the north by becoming the first champion jump jockey to operate on that circuit since Jonjo O’Neill 40 years ago.
Hughes, who comes from South Armagh, said: ‘The only thing we are not similar in is that AP was a hell of a lot better jockey! I am humbled to be mentioned in the same sentence as Tony McCoy and Richard Johnson.
Hughes wants to emulate McCoy’s success but says he’s a ‘hell of a lot better jockey’ than him
‘With Tony McCoy being Northern Irish as well as (Grand National winning jockey) Tony Dobbin, I always watched the racing at the weekend and I’d follow them.
‘My dad was a carpenter but I was never much good at that. Out of my sisters, one is an accountant, one is an insurance broker, one is a biology teacher and the other two have OK jobs. They got the brains.’
Although Hughes started out schooling horses over hurdles and fences for his local trainer James Lambe as a 7st teenager, he initially wanted to be a Flat jockey and joined Curragh trainer Kevin Prendergast.
While he was inspired by 20-time champion McCoy, it was Galway-born Graham Lee who Hughes credits with having the biggest influence on his career after rising weight prompted a move to join the County Durham stable of trainer Howard Johnson.
Hughes, who survived meningitis as a child, said: ‘Graham was stable jockey and was probably cringing as I’d be baffling him with questions. But he always helped out. He is probably the one I’ve watched and tried to take the most from.’
Hughes says Galway-born Graham Lee has had the biggest influence on his career
Winners were hard to find at first and Hughes had secured a move south to the stable of Nigel Twiston-Davies before a flurry of successes during the summer prompted a change of heart.
It was a fateful decision. With Twiston-Davies now well served by his jockey son Sam, Hughes might have found himself in a career cul-de-sac. Instead he secured the 2007-08 conditional jockeys’ title and was up and running at pace. Brian Ellison, James Ewart, Nicky Richards, Keith Dalgleish and most notably Donald McCain are the trainers fuelling Hughes’ title bid and he rides Richards-trained Chidswell in Saturday afternoon’s Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.
But winning the title is something he is not yet contemplating. He said: ‘You try not to put it at the forefront of your mind because stuff like that clouds your judgement. You’re only one fall away from your season being over.’
Hughes know it too well. Hours after his teacher wife Lucy gave birth to their second child, Olivia, on Grand National day last season, Hughes broke his jaw in a fall at Newcastle. While Lucy was in hospital in Middlesbrough, he was in hospital in Newcastle.
Attached to Hughes’ body protector is a St Padre Pio medal, a gift from his mother in the hope that it will keep her son safe as he tries to ride winners every day.
She’ll be hoping the priest and stigmatist venerated by the Catholic Church will look after her son during the most important few weeks of his career.