The Brian Hughes Blog

The elite jockey and FansBet ambassador joins the Presenting Percy fan club, lifts the lid on his fancy for Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase, together with the lowdown on all four mounts at Doncaster on Saturday.
Brian Hughes  |  21st January 2019

Two doubles and two days off due to frost stopping play has been the story of my week so far, with Katy Royal and Windsor Avenue on the scoresheet at Sedgefield on Monday, before Monsieur Co and Erik The Red gave me reason to smile at Kelso on Tuesday .

Meetings being abandoned due to the weather as they were for me on Wednesday and Thursday is all part of a jump jockey’s lot, especially at this time of year, and it’s something we have to take on the chin.

Thursday afternoon off did though afford me the chance to run the rule over the card at Gowran Park, where a certain Presenting Percy rightly got the headlines for his stylish repeat win in the Galmoy Hurdle.

I have to say, I was very impressed.

Davy Russell gave him a lovely ride, he pricked his ears and show-jumped the last – I love horses who don’t over exert and get the job done while doing just enough. That ability to travel within himself and then quicken will again stand him in good stead when it comes to his March target.

On that note, with a few doubts surrounding some of the others, he’d have to be my idea of the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner seven weeks from now.

On the subject of Cheltenham, Saturday afternoon sees their big Festival Trials Day meeting – I’ll be at Doncaster for a book of four rides which I’ll discuss momentarily – but the six runners for the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase (2.25pm) are an interesting bunch.

You’ve got a bonny and game horse in Frodon trying to concede weight, the Welsh National winner Elegant Escape trying to shrug off what was likely to have been a gruelling test at Chepstow, plus a pair in the same colours for Nicky Henderson.

Given the choice, I’d probably chance my arm and take the mount on one of the Henderson pair, Terrefort.

His jockey, Daryl Jacob, would have had the choice between him and Valtor, plus despite the fact he was disappointing the last day I know he’s very highly thought of, has had a light campaign and gets a little bit of weight from both Frodon and Elegant Escape.

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Anyway, on to Doncaster on Saturday and four horses I will be riding…

My day kicks off in the opening handicap hurdle at 12.55pm with the leg-up on Defi Sacre for trainer Richard Hobson. The tricky thing here is how do you equate his French form with a race like this?

I was booked to ride him a little while back in a race he ended up missing, while Danny Cook was on board when he ran okay on his UK debut 17 days ago.

Hopefully it’s encouraging that his connections go straight for a handicap with him, but he’s not a horse I know an awful lot about.

Next up, I’m on Ravenhill Road for Brian Ellison in a small field novices’ chase, one in which we’re almost certainly playing for place money, coming up against one of the favourites for the Arkle in Dynamite Dollars.

Ravenhill Road is a decent sort who I won a maiden hurdle on in 2017, but if Dynamite Dollars turns up in the same mood he’s been in the last twice it’ll be a heck of a task to keep tabs on him. Nonetheless this is a good opportunity for my mount to gain some valuable experience and win his owners, who are big supporters of the game, some place prize money.

I can take a break during race three but I’ll be back on duty for race four on the card, a strong looking Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle (2.40pm) in which I’d like to believe my filly, Chica Buena for Keith Dalgleish, can run a big race.

Possibly a bit unlucky the last day when second at Musselburgh in a race where she was carried right and then bumped, she’d won her previous three including a very dominant performance in a listed race at Aintree.

Here, as the only juvenile in the line-up she’s receiving loads of weight from her five rivals.

What’s more, she’s a big, strong, scopey sort, one who has done nothing but improve. Handicap experience is also a help as it makes them more streetwise.

Clearly this’ll take some winning with the likes of Lady Buttons in there, but I wouldn’t swap mine.

Lastly, I’m on Federici for Donald McCain in the feature Sky Bet Chase at 3.15pm.

This has been his target for a while now given how well he ran for me from a couple of pounds out of the weights in the same contest 12 months ago, beaten less than three lengths.

This time around he’s in the handicap proper, has had an easy schedule and has very little weight to carry.

With that in mind, hopefully he has each way claims in a wide-open race – you have to take your chance in a £100,000 contest like this.

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