The Brian Hughes Blog

The top jockey on the expensive habit of waving your arms, greyhound racing, getting a shoeing, Waiting Patiently, plus ones to watch at Leopardstown this weekend…

Brian Hughes

It’s been another week where my schedule has been more stop than start from a riding perspective, with the last three days wiped out due to snow and frost and the weekend ahead also facing a raft of cancellations.

As I mentioned last week that’s all part and parcel for a National Hunt jockey, though I will mention my last ride of the week at Newcastle on Tuesday, a horse called Point Break in the novices’ hurdle for trainer Ann Hamilton.

Having only his third run in this country, he acquitted himself well against a red-hot favourite, the 142-rated Rouge Vif, who’d travelled a long way from down south for a winning opportunity.

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My fella didn’t do a whole lot when he hit the front, but he’ll improve with experience and it was a very fair effort at this stage of his career – he might be one to keep an eye on, not forgetting the horse who got the better of him here was not beaten far into second at Christmas time by Mister Fisher, very strong form considering the latter is 10/1 with FansBet for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next month.

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Anyway, even if the action on the track has been hard to come by the racing game is rarely dull, and I’m happy to see a degree of common sense prevailing with a delay on the ruling about the enforcement of horses in jumps races having to be shod behind.

As I’ve discussed previously, let’s leave it to the trainers who deal with these horses day in, day out – it’s their livelihood after all, and they wouldn’t do anything that could jeopardise their futures. Surely they’re perfectly capable of deciding whether or not horses in their care should wear shoes on their hind feet?

Speaking of decisions, the verdict to fine trainer Henry Oliver £140 for waving his arms to try and encourage his horse Burrenbridge Hotel to start a race at Uttoxeter last Saturday…

How would I describe my reaction? Bemused.

Would I be alarmed as a rider if I was on a horse which was being mulish and someone was a few metres away waving their arms to encourage them?

Absolutely not – I’d say I’d barely even notice.

I live on a farm and if you’re chasing sheep and cattle what do you do to get them to move in the direction you need them to? Wave your arms!

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Fining Henry just doesn’t make sense: at no point was he physically hitting, harming or threatening the horse, plus don’t forget as a trainer he’s probably driven the horse to the races himself, has been working incredibly hard to try and get the best possible result for his owners, then bizarrely has to cough up £140 purely for trying to make sure his runner at least takes part. It just doesn’t add up.

Anyway, I’m happy to say when I saw him at Newcastle on Tuesday it was straight after he’d just trained a winner, his second in two days after also having one at Kempton Park on Monday, so at least he had something to smile about.

As did all of us jockeys who were involved in the prestigious Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last Saturday, not necessarily due to the performances of what we were riding, but because of the pictures we saw afterwards…

I was concentrating and unaware mid-race but on tv you could clearly see – the commentator even mentioned it – a greyhound had slipped his lead and decided to try and give us a race, fortunately not on the grass with us but on the infield track designed for the service vehicles and ambulance.

He was going some pace and I’d say was in need of a good feed that night, but you’d be disappointed if he’d overtaken us!

Elsewhere, there was speculation in this week’s press my mount Waiting Patiently might re-appear in Ireland this weekend at Leopardstown’s Dublin Festival Of Racing.

Winner of six of his seven starts over fences, his trainer Ruth Jefferson has chosen to sidestep that trip across the pond, though all being well you will see him in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, the same race I won on him a year ago, on Saturday 16th February.

Ascot suits him well and I’m very much looking forward to riding this high class horse again.

Lastly, it’s exceptionally rare for me to have a weekend off at this time of year, but it does afford me the luxury of taking in the big two days at Leopardstown on the box.

I’m originally from Armagh (not that far from the racecourse at Dundalk) but I have fond memories of Leopardstown: I rode a Flat winner there many moons ago, plus got the leg-up on Katie T for Kevin Prendergast to win a very valuable 24-runner handicap hurdle four years ago.

Horses that interest me there this weekend?

I rode a winner on a likeable horse called Chief Justice for Richard Fahey at Worcester back in August, the only time I sat on him.

Since transferred to Gordon Elliott, this is a young horse with Flat speed who has gone on to win three more in Ireland, as well as be second in a Grade 2 at Leopardstown at Christmas.

He goes again in Sunday’s Grade 1 Spring Juvenile at 1.15pm, and although FansBet have him at 11/1 in a deep contest I think he has a definite chance of at least making the frame.

At the other end of the age spectrum is another horse I know from having ridden him, but this time literally three times the age of four-year-old Chief Justice, the Nicky Richards-trained veteran Simply Ned.

Never out of the first three in six trips to Leopardstown, there’s definitely something about this track which brings out the best in him.

I know he’s 12-years-of-age and up against exciting younger horses, but it was no fluke the way he beat Footpad at the same venue the last day, and he gave me a lovely spin when I was second on him at Cheltenham in November.

Taken across the water early this week, he goes in Saturday’s Grade 1 Dublin Chase at 3.10pm, a race in which I’d love to think he can spring another surprise.

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