Richard Hughes sets ton-up pace in defence of riders' title
While Frankie Dettori continues his mortifying hunt for a first winner since before Royal Ascot, the champion jockey himself has gained stunning impetus after ending his own frustrations at that meeting. Until overcoming a nightmare draw on Sky Lantern in the Coronation Stakes on the Friday, Richard Hughes had endured a maddening week, repeatedly finding himself stuck in traffic or caught out by the draw. As soon as Ascot was out of the way, however, Hughes promptly accumulated 20 winners in eight days – with a treble at Windsor on Monday evening completing the fastest hundred of his career.
Suddenly his only feasible title challenger, Ryan Moore, finds himself all out to stay in contention, three winners of his own at Windsor confining Hughes to a buffer of nine. A duel between the pair had promised to ebb and flow through the summer, but Stan James now make Hughes as short as 2-9 and Moore out to 3-1. Moore would almost certainly have won more than three championships but for injury and, more than 30 winners clear of the chasing pack, is riding at the peak of his powers. But Hughes has an industrial source of winners in Richard Hannon, who today sends out his 106th individual juvenile starter of the campaign.
Hughes and Sky Lantern will take on older fillies for the first time in the Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket on Friday week, while it emerged that he has picked up an intriguing mount in the other Group One race at the July Festival. Shamexpress, the Australian raider, was disappointing when only ninth in the five-furlong King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot but is expected to appreciate the extra furlong in the Darley July Cup – and pleased his work-rider, Paul Koumis, in a reconnaissance of the course. "He worked terrific," Koumis said. "He handled the track really well and had no problem with the undulations. He has come on from Royal Ascot. We missed four or five days with him when he first came over, and he ran a bit like that. I think that trip takes him out of the comfort zone and six will suit him better."
Another to have reached 100 winners for his own campaign is Mark Johnston, whose three runners at Hamilton all won. The trainers' championship is measured over 12 months from November, but the chosen span is immaterial to his sheer, unprecedented consistency – which seldom seems to gain due notice. Though Hannon is now up to 15 in a row, the first trainer to send out 100 winners in 10 consecutive years has now doubled the record he set then.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Footstepsintherain (7.40 Chepstow) Only just eligible for this grade after a promising return at Newmarket and remains far less exposed than most of these rivals.
Ustura (8.50 Kempton) Obvious risk in such a quick reappearance after Ascot but should take all the beating if he has absorbed his fine display there.
ONE TO WATCH
Stencive (William Haggas) Has long been well regarded and ran a stormer from a terrible draw when second in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot.
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