Brian Hughes may have been born in Ulster but, having ridden over a hundred winners in each of the last five seasons, he has now firmly established himself as the top jockey in the North of England. However, despite that success, it took him until last season to register his first Grade 1 win, when he partnered Waiting Patiently to victory in the Ascot Chase. Having already ridden 100 winners this season, Hughes is now looking forward to riding Waiting Patiently in the 2018 King George Chase. So, we thought we’d take a look at how the career of Brian Hughes has progressed and what the future may hold.
Hughes started riding in the 2005/6 National Hunt Season, and he rode 11 winners from just 89 rides. However, things took a turn for the worse the following season when he rode just three winners from 120 rides.
Despite a poor previous season, Hughes took a massive step forward in the 2007/8 National Hunt Season, riding 39 winners from 407 rides and winning over £230,000 in prize money.
In the 2008/9 season he won his first Listed Hurdle aboard Resounding Glory for trainer Richard Fahey, whilst Alfie Flits won him his first Grade 2 Hurdle.
The 2009/10 season saw Hughes team up with trainer Howard Johnson and Hughes was aboard Tidal Bay when he won the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle. He also won his first race over the Grand National fences when Always Waining won the Topham Chase for trainer Peter Bowen.
In the 2010/11 Season, Hughes enjoy another success over the Grand National fences when steering Frankie Figg to victory in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, whilst Back In Focus won a Grade 2 Hurdle at Cheltenham’s big January Meeting. Hughes finished the season with a best ever total of 65 winners and over £450,000 in prize money.
Howard Johnson’s decision to retire before the start of the 2011/12 season came as a blow for Hughes and his number of winners fell to 53 and 44 over the next two seasons.
However, a new association with Malcolm Jefferson in the 2013/14 season saw Hughes ride Urban Hymn to victory in the Grade 2 River Don Novices’ Hurdle. Hughes also enjoyed his first Cheltenham Festival success aboard Hawk High in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. All-in-all, it was a great season for Hughes, with 86 winners from 617 rides and over £678,000 in prize money.
Hughes was quickly amongst the winners again in the 2014/15 season, with Hawk High securing him another big win at Aintree. He also enjoyed more Listed Race and Graded Race successes for a variety of trainers including Karl Burke, Ann Hamilton, Kevin Frost, and Malcom Jefferson. His ever-growing list of admirers saw him ride his first century of winners and he fell just short of winning £1 Million in prize money for the season.
More of the same followed in the 2015/16 season, when Hughes again rode a century of winners and just missed out on hitting the £1 Million prize-money barrier. Hughes added more trainers to his portfolio with Grades success for Sandy Thomson aboard Seeyouatmignight, whilst he teamed up with trainer Ian Williams to secure his second Cheltenham Festival winner aboard Ballyalton in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase.
The 2016/17 season saw Hughes ride 144 winners and smash through the £1 million prize-money barrier, winning total prize-money for the season of £1,431,074. Trainer Malcom Jefferson was in especially good form, unearthing classy horses such as Cloudy Dream, Mount Mews, Double W’s and Waiting Patiently.
Waiting Patiently was the horse that Hughes was most excited about riding at the beginning of the 2017/18 season, and the horse quickly progressed from winning the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase to winning a Listed Race at Kempton. Hughes and Waiting Patiently then teamed up in the Ascot Chase, where Hughes was a picture of confidence as he let Waiting Patiently cruise into the race before taking over between the final two flights. Waiting Patiently didn’t run again that season, but Hughes did win his third Cheltenham Festival race aboard Mr Whittaker in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase. Hughes finished the season on 142 winners, two less than the previous season, but set a new prize-money personal best with £1,441,664.
At the start of the 2018/19 season, Brian Hughes confirmed he had become the number one jockey for the resurgent Donald McCain yard, a move which led to him notching up his quickest ever century of winners.
What the Future May Hold
The future certainly looks bright for Brian Hughes, as his partnership with Donald McCain continues to blossom. He also continues to ride for many of the top Northern-based stables including Nicky Richards, Keith Dalgleish, Ann Hamilton, Sandy Thomson, James Ewart and Iain Jardine. Barring injury, Hughes looks sure to set new personal bests for both the number of winners and prize-money in a season.
Meantime, his rides for the Jefferson yard may have declined in number since the sad death of Malcolm Jefferson, but he still rides for Ruth Jefferson when available. He’ll certainly be aiming to be available to ride Waiting Patiently in the 2018 King George Chase and recent money for the horse suggests he’s primed to go close.
If Hughes continues on his upward curve, and there’s no reason why he won’t, he must also have an excellent chance of becoming champion jockey one day.