July was a fair month for my troops finishing on +39.97 with a strike rate of 33%. Belvoir Bay romping in at 8/1 and Toormore at 9/4 along with Legatissimo 2/1 and Manson e/w second at 14/1 are just a few of the good returns we had in the bag last month on Betfan. Eshera landed the max bet for us on Tuesday night at Cork in the Listed race just got there on the line, she looks game and will step into group class next time.
It was as if Richard Hughes had just ridden the Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner on the same afternoon on Saturday at the Sussex venue, not finished fourth in a handicap on a little-known horse called Fox Trotter the public affection for ‘Hughesie’, especially at Goodwood, a track that extracted his finest qualities as a judge of pace and artist of balance, meant his final ride as a professional jockey was never going to be a dry affair.
After finishing fourth and pulling up on the Brian Meehan-trained gelding in the Qatar Handicap, Hughes was led back along the famous straight, past packed grandstands where the crowd clapped and applauded the champion jockey with gusto. He waved, blew a few kisses and looked a little embarrassed, a little sad perhaps, that he had been unable to reward his fans with a final winner.
Back along the rubber walkway from the course to the paddock the crowds were in no hurry to leave their positions, clapping enthusiastically, while three-year-old Fox Trotter jogged edgily, and looked slightly alarmed by the attention. Then into the paddock, which opened up like a red carpet, and professionals joined the clapping throng. There was a high-five from Richard Hannon Jnr, Hughes’s retaining trainer for the past two seasons, and, with a training career beckoning for the jockey, a loud, “Now your troubles begin!” from Mick Channon.
In a week dominated by Frankie Dettori would Hughes produce a flying dismount? No, as he reached the spot for the fourth horse, his skinny long legs dropped from the stirrups and he spun his right boot back over the saddle for a final time. There was a professional debrief with Meehan and Fox Trotter’s owners, and then he walked calmly back to weigh in for a final time, before returning into the sunlit winner’s enclosure and a traditional champagne soaking from jockey colleagues. He kissed his mum, Eileen, and his sister Sandra, gave a big hug to wife Lizzie and smiled at his children, Harvey and Phoebe, who were being chaperoned through the scrum of attention and eager press and photographers by his great friend and valet Dave Mustow.
Asked to summarise the occasion, Hughes said: “I wanted a winner, but it wasn’t to be. I’m overwhelmed by the whole thing – it’s been brilliant. When I pulled up [on Fox Trotter] I just felt ‘well this is it’. I enjoyed the ride and it all went to plan apart from failing to win, but I’m ready to retire and delighted to go out on such a high.”
“It was unbelievable to be led in front of the crowds – a couple of months ago my kids said on McCoy’s retirement day, ‘Are you going out like that?’ and I said ‘No way’, but it was nearly like that. I’ve had enough winners in my career and one more wouldn’t have made any difference to a reception like that. I would like to thank Goodwood, who would have moved houses for me and I’m very grateful. A lot of jockeys retire in a hospital bed and I feel very lucky.”
“I’m just glad I got through the day without getting too emotional – I did out on the track just now, but I’ve had a fabulous day. Jockeys are like brothers, and we go through the highs and lows together – you’re battling with your weight all the time and there is always someone in the weighing room to help you. I’ll be 9st 4lb on Monday morning and I’ll keep going up.”
“I’m 100 per cent into going training, and while I wanted to be champion jockey again this year unfortunately I couldn’t do the two and next year is more important to me now. I’m not at all nervous about the new career. It’s onwards and upwards.”
Then he posed for a raft of selfies with racegoers, signed autographs and blinked stinging bubbly from his eyes. You sensed it would not be the final time Hughesie graces Goodwood.
The 8/13 with Coral should be taken about Golden Horn winning the Juddmonte International Stakes at York later this month the Epsom Derby hero is as short as 2/5 with Paddy Power the 3yo looks a shoe-in with a clear run.
Yours in sport.
Back Next Thursday.
Kevan Minter – The Colonel.