At the time of writing, Brian Hughes has just won the British Jump Jockeys’ Championship for the second time. Between May 1, 2021 and April 23, 2022, Hughes rode 204 winners, 99 more than his nearest rival, Sam Twiston-Davies. In so doing, he became just the fourth National Hunt jockey in history, after Peter Scudamore, Sir Anthony McCoy and Richard Johnson, to ride 200 winners in a season. Reflecting on his second jockeys’ title, Hughes said, ‘Having lost the championship [to Harry Skelton] last year, to win it back, by a considerable margin and with 200 winners, it will mean the most.’
Of course, Hughes won his first jockeys’ title in 2019/20, with 141 winners, thereby becoming the first jockey based in the North of England to do so since Jonjo O’Neill in 1980. Indeed, O’Neill also held the record for the most winners in a season by a northern jump jockey, 149, which he set in 1978. However, Hughes broke that record as early as February 7, 2022, courtesy of an 83/1 four-timer at Carlisle, which took his seasonal tally to 150. Fittingly, three of his winners that day were saddled by Cholmondeley trainer Donald McCain, to whom Hughes was appointed first-choice jockey at the start of the 2018/19 season.
Born in County Armagh in Northern Ireland, Hughes, 36, became conditional jockey to Howard Johnston in 2005/06 but, by his own admission, became ‘a bit disillusioned’ and sought opportunities elsewhere. Nevertheless, he remained in the North of England and formed successful partnerships, first with County Durham trainer John Wade and subsequently with Donald McCain, Nicky Richards, Brian Ellison, James Ewart and others, that would ultimately take him to the top of his profession.