RICHARD Hughes was crowned champion jockey as the Flat season ended at Doncaster on Saturday – but immediately stated his intentions to retain the title next year.
Hughes was accompanied by his son, Harvey, to the podium to receive his trophy, after which the champagne flowed and he was hoisted on the shoulders of his weighing-room colleagues.
Hughes, who also had his wife, Lizzie, father and top trainer Dessie Hughes, and his mother, Eileen, in attendance, said: “I worked really hard in September and it paid off. If I had to single out one day it would have to be at Windsor when I had those seven winners – I had the title tied up by then. I won’t hand it (the title) over too easy, it’s a privilege to be champion and I’ll go again.”
Amy Ryan broke new ground as she became the first female rider to win the champion apprentice title outright, something not even Hayley Turner managed.
John Gosden landed a first trainers’ title, with Godolphin named top owners.
Weighing-room veteran Franny Norton ended the season on a high with a 230-1 double courtesy of Art Scholar and Tartiflette. The popular Liverpool-born jockey only picked up the ride on Art Scholar (20-1) for Newark trainer Michael Appleby in the feature Betfred November Handicap after Darryll Holland was unwell, but made the most with victory over Communicator by three-quarters of a length.
Norton’s brace came in the very last race, the Betfred “The Bonus King” Handicap, on Tartiflette (10-1) for Ed McMahon.
The Package staked an early claim for the Hennessy Gold Cup as he fought off Michel Le Bon to land the Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase at Wincanton. Trainer Pipe sees the 5-1 winner as the yard’s main John Smith’s Grand National hope and said: “He’s really a National horse, but he’s in the Hennessy and we’ll have to look at that.”
Paul Nicholls, meanwhile, feels Zarkandar is right back where he wants him after the five-year-old outpointed stablemate Prospect Wells in the totepool.com Elite Hurdle.
Nicholls said: “Zarkandar will now go for the Bula (International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December) and we’re right back where we want to be with him. Then we’ll look to bring him back here for the Kingwell in the new year.”
Overturn made the perfect start to life over fences when leading all the way to land the Bet On Today’s Football At Bluesq.com Beginners’ Chase at Sandown. Trainer Donald McCain said: “He was magic.”
Flemenstar, arguably the horse with the biggest future on show at the weekend, strutted his stuff yesterday and was foot-perfect in the Irish Form Book Fortria Chase at Navan, taking all to beat crack two-miler Big Zeb with ease.
Peter Casey will now target the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown on December 9 before trying three miles for the first time in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Casey said: “When he is fit he’ll be a good one! He will go for the John Durkan now at Punchestown (December 9).
“He has got stronger since last year but he was only 80 per cent fit today. He got beat here the last two years but I slept well last night, I wasn’t worried about him. After he goes over two and a half in the Durkan we will think about running him over three miles. He should get three miles on breeding.”
Tony McCoy, meanwhile, reached another landmark in his remarkable career when becoming the first to ride 50 winners at Ffos Las. The 17-times champion jockey has a tremendous strike-rate at the Carmarthenshire venue, and a double from the first two races on the card saw him reach the half-century.
Since Ffos Las opened in the summer of 2009, McCoy has only ridden more winners at Worcester than at any of the other courses in Britain.
Winner No 49 came courtesy of the Rebecca Curtis-trained At Fishers Cross in the wyevalleydemolition.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle, the 4-7 favourite obliging by two and a half lengths.
Next up was stablemate Boyfromnowhere in the Dunraven Windows Novices’ Hurdle and he too kept favourite-backers happy, returning at 6-4 after an 11-length triumph.
McCoy, who rode a treble at the track’s opening fixture on June 18, 2009, was presented with a painting of his first winner that day, Sea Wall, by racecourse chairman Dai Walters.
General manager and clerk of the course Tim Long said: “AP McCoy is a phenomenon. His feats in the saddle may never be surpassed.”
At Kelso on Saturday, Grand National-winning jockey Liam Treadwell made his first ride at the Scottish course a successful one as he took the featured Mayfield Restaurant Limited Handicap Chase on Idarah. Treadwell, who scooped the 2009 Aintree marathon on 100/1 chance Mon Mome, was a seven-length winner aboard Venetia Williams-trained Hereford raider.