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.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel