Richard Hughes, fresh from securing a third in a row UK Jockeys Championship in 2014 is eagerly anticipating his trip to the Far East and a return to Hong Kong for another crack at the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 10 December.
“It’s a great evening, and one I look forward to,” said the 41-year-old, who, some 2,550 winners into his career, is riding as well now as he has ever done.
“You are riding against some of the best jockeys in the world and that is what makes it special. It is very competitive, and there is no room for error. Against lesser jockeys you can find space, make your own room, but not against these,” he said of a challenge he clearly relishes.
Last year Hughes came into the LONGINES IJC off the back of a win in the World Super Jockeys Series in Japan, but, apart from a second place finish in the third leg at Happy Valley, was out of luck with his other mounts, finishing some way behind the winner Kerrin McEvoy and runner up Zac Purton, both of whom look set to re-oppose at this year’s Championship.
“Last year I had no luck, so I’ll be hoping for better this time around,” said Hughes, who will first defend his WSJS title in Tokyo before jetting into Hong Kong.
“Luck does play a part at Happy Valley, where the draw is so important, plus, of course, you need to be on a horse with a chance. Having said that, there isn’t usually that much between the horses as the Hong Kong handicapper can handicap them so accurately, with fewer track variations and more consistent going. At home there are so many more variables, left-handed tracks, right handed tracks, uphills and downhills, variations in going - our handicaps are not so tight.”
Hughes has fond, if distant, memories of Happy Valley success. “I rode in Hong Kong many moons ago and rode a winner at a huge price on my first ride there,” he recalls.
However he fares on the second Wednesday night in December, there is no doubt that Richard Hughes is looking forward with some anticipation to the following Sunday at Sha Tin and the HK$18.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint.
There he will team up once more with last year’s Sprint runner-up Sole Power, whom Hughes has twice partnered to Group 1 success in 2014, in the King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) at Royal Ascot, and in the Nunthorpe Stakes (1000m) at York.
“Sole Power beat them all last year except for Lord Kanaloa, and the Japanese horse was some sprinter, no doubt about it, the times he ran were sensational,” he said. “Sole Power came to Hong Kong last year after a slightly disappointing run at Longchamp, and ran a blinder, and I’m hoping he can do so again.”
“He wasn’t himself at Longchamp this year either, didn’t pick up for me, so maybe it’s not his track, but I’m hopeful he can bounce back in Hong Kong.”