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HUGHES EXPECTATIONS - By Shailendra Awasthi | TNN

Posted on - 01 Feb 2011

HUGHES EXPECTATIONS
 
Irish Jockey Richard Hughes, Who Guided Jacqueline To Derby Glory Last Year, Will Be The Centre of Attraction At This Year’s Mega Event Too
 
By Shailendra Awasthi | TNN
 
Mahalaxmi Racecourse, the finest racing centre in the country, has seen some of the best international riding talent over the years. Saddle artists like Lester Piggott, Mike Kinane, Johny Lowe, Jimmy Fortune, Walter Swinburn are some of the great riders who have graced the Mahalaxmi turf in the past. Irish rider Richard Hughes, currently one of the world’s leading saddle artists, is also a veteran at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse, having been coming to Mumbai since 1991.
 
   All these riding greats come here looking to land riches in the Indian Classics, but the Indian Derby holds a special place for all of them.
 
   Many of them have been successful, but few have created an impact like Hughes. The 37-year-old won six of the last eight Indian Classics, including the Indian Derby, with super filly Jacqueline last year.
 
   Hughes has been the only jockey in the last decade to have won Indian Derby astride favourites. He had guided Smart Chieftain to glory in 2000 but since then no other public choice had managed to win. Many had started calling Indian Derby a graveyard for superstar horses until Hughes steered Jacqueline to that famous win.
 
   What’s it that makes him successful astride favourites?
   “It’s because I’m not afraid to lose the Indian Derby,” says Hughes. “I treat it like any other ordinary race. That’s the only way you can win because this is a high-pressure race and to succeed one must be able to hold his nerves,” opines Hughes, who has already won the Indian 2000 Guineas (Ocean And Beyond) and Indian Oaks (Moonlight Romance) this season.
 
   “Derby Day in any country is a special day,” says Hughes, who has also won Derby crowns in Italy, Ireland and England. “It is always tough to ride in derby races and Indian Derby is no exception,” adds Hughes, who at 5’10” is one of the tallest jockeys in the world.
 
   Hughes says even the horses feel the Indian Derby pulse.
   “Since most people turn up on Derby Day, there is a lot of noise than usual and it affects horses as they are not used to so much of cheering and screaming. It becomes most important for us to make them feel relaxed because it is they who are going to put in all the effort to win. We just guide them,” the 38-year-old says.
 
   Hughes will be under pressure again this year at the Derby as he is set to ride either Ocean And Beyond or Moonlight Romance, both leading contenders again and owned by Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan and Prem Tharani who have hired the services of Hughes. “I have to take a call on who to ride. It’s a difficult choice because both are great performers.”
 
   Hughes also feels that Indian jockeys are highly talented. “They are very competitive and among the current lot, I feel B Prakash is exceptionally talented. No matter what the situation of the race is, Prakash always sits in a nice position and has a great race temperament.”
 
   Interestingly, just a couple of days before the Indian Derby last year, Hughes was blessed with a lovely daughter. He named her ‘Baby Jacqueline’ after the great filly Jacqueline, who he later guided to Derby glory.
 
RICHARD FILES
 
Born: January 11, 1973 in Dublin (Ireland)

• Hughes is the son of Irish National Hunt trainer Dessie Hughes

• Apart from riding for his father-inlaw Richard Hannon, he also rode for Khalid Abdullah, one of the leading owners

• Has ridden over 2000 winners in his career which also includes around 35 classics around the world

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