Win or lose, there's only ever one Richard Hughes

Jockey's tactics dominate start of royal meeting as Canford Cliffs win follows Paco's defeat by Goldikova

After the first race, there were the inevitable grumbles: "Will he ever learn?" After the third, however, those who recognise Richard Hughes as one of the outstanding horsemen of his generation, and very much in his pomp, were able to turn the question round: "Will they ever learn?" Then, unfeasibly, the race after that left both parties shaking their heads, unanimous that Hughes – however good, bad or indifferent his judgement – sometimes needs luck the same as anyone else.

Riding Paco Boy with his usual, nerveless restraint, Hughes had failed by only a neck to run down the mighty Goldikova in the Queen Anne Stakes. Thankfully, he proceeded to give Canford Cliffs an identical ride to win the St James's Palace Stakes decisively. Both these mile championships had been anticipated for their vintage quality, but it was Hughes who gilded them with a due hint of genius.

Then came the Coventry Stakes, and here was Hughes, short of room and time on the hot favourite, Strong Suit. Somehow he retrieved an even keel, pulled out, and went into a candidly utilitarian overdrive to mug Elzaam on the line.

That kind of thing can happen to any jockey – win, lose or draw. But the conjunction of Paco Boy and Canford Cliffs should perhaps prompt his critics to ask themselves to look at Hughes afresh. How, otherwise, will they account for the fact that both these horses were long perceived –quite understandably – as sprinters rather than milers? The fact is that horses ridden by Hughes conserve the energy being squandered by more overtly positive riders. And they also offer him more without being asked. The delicacy of his hands and the courage that underpins his tactics together prompt them to relax and commit at the right time. Typically, of course, their rivals will be tiring in front – with only their different rates of doing so creating the optical illusion of "quickening".

It might be argued, for instance, that Olivier Peslier got away with a pretty mediocre ride on Goldikova. Unable to restrain himself any longer, so luxuriantly was she travelling just behind the pace, Peslier committed her fully 500 yards out in a race run in a lightning time. Sure enough, she began to tread water inside the final furlong, and that exaggerated the gusto of Paco Boy's finish. The chances are that Hughes, switched to Goldikova, would have won this race very comfortably. As it was, he was only a couple of strides from pulling off an outrageous win, and probably logged a career best for his mount. Yet most people were muttering that he had set Paco Boy too much to do.

Instead people should acknowledge Goldikova as one of the great milers of the modern era, fully deserving of the immortality she would achieve as the first triple Breeders' Cup winner if she defends the Mile successfully at Louisville in November. In the meantime, Freddie Head will return her to home soil in search of a 10th Group One success at Deauville next month.

"Perhaps she got there a bit early," the trainer admitted. "When Paco Boy came I was a little scared, but when she gets to the front she is never beaten. She always finds something else. It's rare you can ride a horse of that calibre in so many ways. She was not even blowing five minutes after the race."

Richard Hannon Jnr, assistant trainer to his father, absolved Hughes of any criticism. "That was probably the best performance of Paco Boy's career," he observed. "He has that one kick, and you've got to ride him like that. The two of them get on perfect."

It was another three lengths back to the outsider Dream Eater, while Rip Van Winkle was soon off the bridle on his comeback and faded into sixth. Nor did things turn out any better for his stable in the St James's Palace Stakes, where Steinbeck found himself in front after his pacemaker missed the break. Hughes, meanwhile, settled Canford Cliffs towards the rear and eased him through traffic from the home turn, artfully switching into a gap before Hearts Of Fire. Thereafter his mount just needed a couple of slaps to see off his stablemate Dick Turpin by a length, with Steinbeck dropping right away and the disappointing Makfi never landing a blow in seventh. Noble's Promise, the American raider, was not beaten far in fifth but never found a proper rhythm.

"I could afford to give them five lengths riding a horse like Canford Cliffs," Hughes said. "He needs to be ridden confidently to get him to settle. He also needs to come from off the pace, so needs some luck in running. But he's just so smooth and electric, like a Rolls-Royce. Riding another horse after him is like getting into a Morris Minor."

He would soon revise that judgement, however, after Strong Suit pulled the Coventry out of the fire. "I had a nightmare," Hughes admitted. "I had a barging match with Shane Kelly, and my horse was very raw and green. I had them all beat at the two-furlong pole so I said: 'Let's go and win it.' But I went to go round one horse and he just ran straight into the back of him. He wouldn't have come off the bit otherwise – he's a machine."

Hannon Snr, who proposed the Sussex Stakes for Canford Cliffs, could also take this colt to Goodwood for the Richmond, with the Newmarket July Festival an alternative.

The Australian raider Nicconi had earlier experienced the indignity of being outpaced in the King's Stand Stakes, keeping on only steadily for fourth behind Equiano. The rejuvenated 2008 winner of this contest dominated a race in which very few horses made ground, and will duly be kept to five furlongs for the Nunthorpe Stakes by his trainer, Barry Hills.

And the American favourite, Metropolitan Man, similarly failed to keep tabs on the home team in the Windsor Castle Stakes, dropping right out behind Marine Commando, who was crowning a prolific first half to the campaign for Richard Fahey and his stable jockey, Paul Hanagan. Goldikova duly proved the only overseas winner on a day that instead, with any luck, helped to identify a few home truths.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Safina (5.35 Ascot) Top-class pedigree and presumably kept back for this since breaking her maiden at Chester, form that has worked out well. This extra furlong will suit.

Next best

Moynahan (4.25 Ascot) Remains fairly treated after getting out of trouble at Goodwood last time.

One to watch

Mac's Power (J R Fanshawe) Promised to strike soon at Doncaster on Sunday, breaking clear like a well-handicapped horse before just being run down.

Where the money's going

Totesport make Strong Suit 9-1 favourite for next year's Stan James 2,000 Guineas after his remarkable success in the Coventry Stakes yesterday.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf