Brian Hughes – Under Starters Orders

Features | 29th October 2020

Profile of Champion Jump Jockey Brian Hughes. The Irishman is a Grade 1 winner, has over 1,000 winners to his name and is one of the best jockeys in the weighing room.

Brain Hughes profile

Date of birth: 27th June 1985

Career highlight: Winning the 2019/2020 Champion Jump Jockeys’ title with 141 winners, 19 ahead of defending champion Richard Johnson becoming the first Champion Jockey based in the North since Jonjo O’Neill won the title in 1980.

Interesting fact: Hughes is such a hard-working jockey that he, famously, rode out on the gallops before his wedding day.

Brian Hughes has been one of the most consistent and reliable performers over many, many years. He has established himself as the top northern-based jockey winning the Northern Jump Jockey of the year title for the last five seasons.

Hughes is in an elite group of jockeys that have reached over 1,000 career winners, he hit the landmark in January last year at just 33 years old. Only four current Jump jockeys have ridden more winners; Paddy Brennan, Tom Scudamore, Davy Russell and Richard Johnson.

Not only a consistent winner, week-in, week-out, but Hughes has done it on the big stage with 19 Graded-race victories, a Grade 1 victory and three Cheltenham Festival winners.

The Grade 1 winner was the 2018 Ascot Chase on board Waiting Patiently beating the mighty Cue Card in an epic finish down the home straight.

It was an emotional win for all involved with trainer of Waiting Patiently Malcolm Jefferson sadly passing away the month before. It was a poignant moment with Ruth Jefferson being able to say a final farewell to her father.

Malcolm was an important figure in Hughes’ life, he helped develop Hughes into the brilliant jockey he is today and being able to win that big Grade 1 race in Malcolm’s memory was a special moment.

Where it all started for Brian Hughes

Brian Hughes grew up in County Armagh in Northern Ireland. Growing up his hero was AP McCoy and he even went as far as trying to copy the 20-time Champion Jockeys’ riding style of really attacking fences and being aggressive in the saddle.

Sir AP McCoy presenting Brian Hughes and owner Tim Radford with Mick Channon after winning The Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with Mister Whitaker
Sir AP McCoy presenting Brian Hughes and connections with The Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase trophies at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival

During his teenage years, Hughes wanted to become a Flat jockey and gained valuable experience at RACE, the renowned Irish Turf Club’s racing academy. He began his career under the guidance of Curragh trainer Kevin Prendergast where he spent four years, however, weight issues meant the Flat wasn’t a viable path.

Switching over to the Jumps, Irish trainer James Lambe played a key part in Hughes’ development before moving to the North of England in 2005. After a steady start to his career with not many rides, Hughes established himself as a top young jockey in high demand for many northern trainers.

As a young rider, he learnt a lot and took inspiration from Graham Lee with his composed riding style, getting horses into a great rhythm, conserving energy and gliding over obstacles. Hughes soon became the ultimate horseman; talented, a master tactician and strength in the finish.

The 2007 / 2008 season was a big year, winning the Champion Conditional Jockey’s title showing the Jump racing world what a talent he was.

The rest as they say is history.

Winning the Champion Jockey title

Brian Hughes champion jump jockey trophy
Brian Hughes with wife Luci, and children Rory and Olivia with the Champion Jump Jockey Trophy at home

This was a dream come true for Brian Hughes, he emulated his childhood hero AP McCoy by winning a Champion Jockey title.

It was a lot of hard work and graft that paid off, Ruth Jefferson said, “he’s been on an upward trajectory for such a long time and it’s so nice to see someone who has such burning ambition achieve their dreams”

Hughes stayed as humble as ever when realising his dream, he said “AP was a hell of a lot better jockey than me. So is Richard Johnson. I am humbled to be mentioned in the same sentence as them but I am immensely proud to be going down in the history books as Champion Jockey.”

Sadly due to COVID-19, the presentation of Brian Hughes as the Champion Jockey couldn’t take place last season at Sandown’s Jump Finale in April. However, later in the year Mick Fitzgerald visited Hughes’ house in a surprise visit to deliver the 2019 / 2020 Champion Jockey trophy.

At this early stage of the Jump racing season, Hughes has built up a good lead in the Jump Jockey Championship.

He certainly has the pedigree to go on and win it again having reached 100 winners for the last six seasons. He’s also an extremely driven and hard-working jockey, and he’ll be sure to do everything in his power to defend his crown.

Jump Jockeys' Championship