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Hughes’ Galway Plate dream turns to nightmare

He described it as a possible dream come true beforehand, but Armagh man, Brian Hughes’ Galway Plate goal turned into a nightmare at Balybrit racecourse. The three-time British Champion Jumps Jockey was brought in for the plum ride on defending champion, Hewick, but Shark Hanlon’s horse was hugely disappointing on the day.


A Rare Irish Ride

Hughes, who is based in the North of England, was a surprise pick to replace the injured Jordan Gainford for the ride on Hewick in the Galway Plate and was keen to stress how much it would mean to ride the winner of the Galway Festival feature.

Hewick, who is a 50/1 shot in the horse racing betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next year, was defending his Plate crown after an impressive win in 2022 but was not fancied by many for the big race after a big rise in the weights.

As the racing results suggest, however, Hewick was never a factor in the race and would eventually trail home in 14th position after a well-below-par effort. Hughes had given his mount the best chance of winning with a canny ride, but Hewick ran out of steam quickly, leaving the Armagh man disappointed on his return to the Emerald Isle.

The People’s Horse

The Galway Plate performance was a rare blip on what has been a brilliant recent career for Hewick, with the 8-year-old causing plenty of surprises in the world of racing over the past few years, capturing the imagination of fans in the process.

One of the biggest bargains ever encountered in horse racing, having been purchased by his trainer, Shark Hanlon, for just €850, Hewick hit the headlines when making the trip across the Atlantic to plunder the American Grand National in 2022.

He would further enhance his fame at the Cheltenham Festival in March, leading the famous Gold Cup for most of the race, before falling late on with a placed finish seemingly in the bag. A win at Sandown followed before a trip to France for their Champion Hurdle, but his Galway shocker will have his connections a little worried for the season ahead.

Hughes’ Battle With Bowen

Newtownhamilton native, Brian Hughes, is now a three-time Champion Jumps Jockey in Britain after defending his title last season, but the 38-year-old finds himself trailing Welsh jockey, Sean Bowen, in this year’s standings.

Basing himself in the North of England by joining Howard Johnston in 2005, Hughes has struck up relationships with most of Britain’s Northern-based trainers through the years, particularly Donald McCain who has provided him with the majority of winners over the past few years.

A three-time Cheltenham Festival winner, Hughes has surprisingly never been a regular when it comes to top-level races across the season, but he shows his professionalism and commitment to his craft by travelling the length and breadth of Britain to ride at nearly every racetrack across the country throughout the year.

The Armagh man will go down as one of the most successful jump jockeys of all time when he decides to hang up his boots, but that is unlikely to happen in the near future. Another Champion Jockey title and some Grade 1 successes are on his wishlist for now, and, of course, another shot at the Galway Plate.

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