When Armagh jockey Brian Hughes reflects on his career, the 2021/22 season will surely stand out on the highlight reel in his mind.
Hughes rode 204 winners in a prolific campaign and won the second of what would, in 2023, become three champion jockey titles.
Given the quantity of races in the UK’s National Hunt season, it’s not a huge surprise when the best of the best achieve that 200-win milestone – the likes of Tony McCoy, Richard Johnson and Peter Scudamore are members of that elite club.
But on the Flat? That’s another matter entirely…
The last two jockeys to ride 200 or more winners in a British Flat season are Irish – and they could be joined by a third in 2023.
Oisin Murphy will have ample opportunity to add to his collection of seasonal winners at Royal Ascot, where he will take the rides for the likes of Qatar Racing, Andrew Balding and Saeed bin Suroor. Teumessias Fox and Mawj are just two of his booked rides predicted to go very nicely in many betting tips columns.
MAWJ WINS THE QIPCO 1000 GUINEAS! 🔵
— Newmarket Racecourse (@NewmarketRace) May 7, 2023
Murphy, a three-time champion jockey on the Flat, is yet to crash through the 200-winner mark despite being amongst the best in the business for a number of years. In 2019 he saddled 168 winners, which is as close as he has got so far.
Regarded as one of the hardest working riders in the sport, Murphy will take on hundreds more runners yet in 2023 – assuming he remains injury free and can up his strike rate to around 25%, he could yet trouble the 200-club….a band of jockeys who have not accepted any new members in the past decade.
Ironically, the last Flat jockey to power to a 200-win season was a namesake of Brian Hughes – Richard, from Dublin, won a hat-trick of champion jockey titles between 2012 and 2014.
The meat in the sandwich, 2013, saw Hughes steer 208 horses to glory – the last time that 200 or more winners were commanded in a single season.
Prior to that, we have to go back another decade to find the previous 200-win season – another Irishman, Kieren Fallon, was responsible back in 2003. It’s a feat that the County Clare jockey would accomplish four times in a remarkable career.
Incredibly, Frankie Dettori – considered by many to be one of the greatest Flat jockeys of all – has only ridden 200 winners in a season twice, so it’s another all-time great who takes the spoils.
Gordon Richards, who won the champion jockey crown on an unprecedented and scarcely believable 26 occasions, would also ride 200 or more winners in a season 12 times – that’s despite his career being temporarily halted by the Second World War.
His 1947 campaign, in which he won 269 times, is still considered to be one of the best seasons in racing history.
Given how much the royal family adore racing, particularly on the Flat, it’s no wonder that they have lent their respective titles to races at Royal Ascot – nor was it a shock when Richards was knighted in 1953. He remains the figurehead of racing’s 200-winners club.