Wednesday, 5 August 2015


Much was made of rebranding the famous racing week as the 'Qatar Goodwood Festival', but it remained just as glorious.

Expectation weighed heavy on the shoulders of Richard Hughes, his final week as a jockey before beginning a new journey as a trainer. Even the most hardened punter could not begrudge his first winner aboard the Richard Hannon trained Gibeon on Thursday. A typical Hughesy ride, drawing away from the field and just holding off old friend Frankie Dettori on the favourite Keble. With a mixture of relief and delight across his face, Hughes exclaimed "I'm glad I've got one, I can retire a happy man now!" In the same race, Wolverhampton maiden winner Scooner finished a very respectable fourth - just over five lengths off the aforementioned victor. Scooner, trained by Roger Charlton, displays the growing number of top class trainers running their horses on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton Racecourse on the way to rising through the racing ranks.

Hughes started as favourite with most bookmakers to finish at top jockey at the festival but the fairytale didn't quite happen for Richard as he gained one more winner the following day on Belvoir Bay, again for his brother-in-law Mr Hannon. The close bond that Hughes has had with the Hannons has been crucial to his vastly successful riding career and I am sure that he has picked up plenty of tips from them in preparation for taking the first steps into his new vocation. All-weather followers will remember Richard Hannon Jnr's first winner as a trainer, when he sent out Unscripted at Wolverhampton in January 2014 to win on his debut under an easy ride for Sean Levey, will Hughes follow in Hannon's footsteps and have his first winner on the all-weather, under the floodlights in Wolverhampton?

It was the previously-mentioned Dettori who won the accolade of top jockey, rolling back the years with a fantastic six winners. Four of those were for Al Shaqab, the Qatari owner who retain him, and one of these was aboard Dubday - the first horse trained in Qatar to win a race in Britain. Tehse results will have delighted the new sponsors and shows the increasing influence that Al Shaqab are having on horse racing, challenging well-established names like Godolphin. Incidentally, one of the six not linked to the growing ownership powerhouse was Qatar Stewards' Sprint Stakes winner Golden Steps. A horse having started out finishing second in a six furlong maiden here at Wolverhampton, it was another nod to the #WolvesForm and represented a day where Dettori won both the Stewards' Cup and its consolation race. It was a great sight to behold Frankie's infamous flying dismount throughout the festival and it is obvious that he really is revelling in his racing again.

Despite being eclipsed in terms of overall winners, the celebrations after Hughes' final ride on Saturday were the loudest of the week. The outpouring of admiration and emotion from fans and fellow jockeys alike showed how great a servant he has been to horse racing and I have doubt he will continue to be so in his new role. Surely it is only a matter of time before Hughesy is celebrating a success as a fully fledged trainer at the celebrated Sussex Downs racecourse.

Whatever the name or sponsorship, Glorious Goodwood has a special place in the hearts of racing fans, and long may that continue.

Author: Luke Archer