An Audience with Richard Hughes

Levity was a watch word...

Levity was a watch word…

Richard Hughes was in unequivocal mood on Tuesday night when asked about his 2000 Guineas mount, and plenty else besides, at the London Racing Club.

Sporting a dapper pink shirt and an impressive perma-tan (one of the spoils of his annual Indian busman’s holiday), Hughes was in conversation with Lee Mottershead, president of LRC, biographer to the jockey, Racing Post chief correspondent, and all round eloquent egg.

The relationship between hack and hacked is often a grudging, stilted one. Not so with these familiar sparring partners whose double act has been reprised on a weekly basis for Hughes’ Saturday column in the Racing Post.

‘Hughesie’ spoke candidly and with humour about a range of subjects, not all of which would be easy for your average man in the street (far less, your average jock) to concede to a room full of strangers.

The below is a potted summary of the evening as, in truth, I was far too busy enjoying the craic to take more copious notes!

On trainers…

“Andre Fabre is DEFINITELY the best trainer in the world”

“Henry Cecil’s NEVER need the run”

“Aidan O’Brien is very intense. He always has a game plan, but no plan B. In fairness, he’s usually right. He gets inside horse’s heads”

On the Hannon 2yo process…

“The two year old’s work all winter, then do fast canters from Cheltenham. They’re men by the time they get to the track and are ready to run”

On maiden auction races…

“A maiden auction winner might eventually get rated 80, but rarely more. They’re not going to win a Coventry”

On Coventry 2yo’s…

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“The Hannon 2yo in Newbury’s Lockinge weekend maiden is likely to be the Coventry 2yo”

[Note, the Lockinge this year is 18th May]

On the Hannon training hierarchy…

“Richard Jr. runs the [Sheikh] Hamdan side, and about 50% of the yard. Richard Sr. continues to look after the business and is still very much the boss, for this season at least”

On the 2000 Guineas, and Toronado…

“Toronado was just a nice horse six weeks ago. I said to Richard, “He’s no Canford Cliffs”. But, just before the Craven he did a brilliant piece of work with Trumpet Major and a decent sprinter, and I said to Richard, “He’s an aeroplane””

“Toronado stays well but he’s very quick too”

“It wasn’t the intention to make all in the Craven, but nobody else wanted to so I just pushed on. I said to James Doyle [aboard third placed Dundonnell], “I expected you to take me on early on there”. Doyle said, “I was squeezing the guts out of him after half a mile; couldn’t go the pace”

“Toronado will win the Guineas, and could be more a Derby horse than a Guineas horse” [Yikes! Ed.]

On the 1000 Guineas…

“I said to owners of Sky Lantern before the Nell Gwyn, “This is a trial”. She got outpaced and Hot Snap had first run, but she ran a good trial”

“I prefer Sky Lantern to Maureen. [On the latter’s Fred Darling win] I didn’t pick up; they all fell in a hole”

“What A Name the one to beat”

“Just The Judge dodged the trials”

Of Newmarket’s Rowley Mile…

“It’s deteriorated through watering, and now resembles Yarmouth with loads of little ridges across the track. These can unbalance horses more so than ‘the dip'”

A jockey to follow…

“Andrea Atzeni is one who could go to the top. He’s a cool customer”

Other horses worthy of mention…

“Wentworth [owned by Coolmore] is probably just a handicapper. I don’t know if he’s got anything in hand”

“Baltic Knight could win again”

“Trumpet Major could just win a Lockinge”

“Two well handicapped horses could be Sea Shanty and Intrigo”


Almost all of the above came from the second half of the evening, with the first half given over to more biographical stuff, such as his life story (son of Irish trainer, Dessie Hughes; married to Hannon’s daughter, Lizzie), and his battles with ‘piss pills’ (diuretics) and alcohol (a diuretic!).

If you’d like to understand more about Hughes, his biography, A Weight Off My Mind, is now available in paperback, and I’ve got a signed copy to send to one lucky reader, as part of a Newmarket Guineas weekend tipping competition spanning Saturday and Sunday. The book’s an engaging read, melding as it does Mottershead’s easy style and Hughes’ candour, so look out for an email about that tomorrow/Saturday morning.

All in all, although I’d not been feeling well, and had only decided at the last minute to go along, I’m really glad I did. It was a great fun night in the company of two masters of their trade (both of whom were moonlighting as raconteurs here!)


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