A review of the action from Brighton's August Festival
Last Updated: 06/08/14 5:49pm
A review of the action from the first day of Brighton's August Festival where Richard Hughes rode a four-timer.
Richard Hughes is still playing down the chances of retaining his champion jockey title but there could have hardly been more glaring evidence to the contrary at Brighton as he pulled off an astonishing ride in one of the least prestigious races he will participate in.
There was a window of opportunity to whittle down Ryan Moore's advantage of 20 with the current leader out of action until the weekend, and Hughes was to make inroads by claiming a 94-1 four-timer on the opening afternoon of the August festival.
While the first two winners had been fairly straightforward cases for his boss, Richard Hannon, it took some bravery to even get aboard Sheena West's Unidexter in the Thorley Taverns Selling Handicap, let alone force the reluctant gelding's head in front at the post.
Unidexter (6-1) threw Hughes off, played up in the stalls and looked a lost cause even when he had finally consented to start.
Hughes resorted to one last roll of the dice, switching wide around the home bend for a final charge and galvanising his mount past fading rivals to win by a length.
"It was hard work, all right," said Hughes. "I had to jump off when I was checking my reins and then there was a filly in the stall next door and he was trying to get over.
"I had one last try, pulled him out wide, and thought, 'This might work.'"
Hughes was applauded in his return to the weighing room and West said: "I know he's a champion jockey but plenty of champion jockeys wouldn't have stuck that out. The horse did everything to try to kill him three times.
"I've seen plenty of good rides, but I've not seen any better 'I-will-get-on-you-and-I-will-ride-you' ones. I don't think the horse will run on the Flat again, he'll go to Fontwell next Thursday."
Rab Havlin, on runner-up Sexy Secret, was given a four-day whip ban (August 23-26).
Hughes' Brighton strike-rate is now around 33 per cent over the last five years and his immediate start came aboard L'Etacq, who was the 5-4 favourite for the Hills Prospects Nursery.
Winner of a Lingfield maiden but taken off his feet in the Newbury Super Sprint, L'Etacq was briefly hemmed in on the rails but got out in time to beat Amber Crystal by half a length.
The juvenile is named after a spot on the coast in Jersey, as owners the Coriolan Partnership hail from the island.
Hannon also supplied Middleham Park Racing's Crafty Choice (even-money favourite), who made light work of his three rivals in the EBF/Laines Best Maiden Stakes.
After this race, which preceded his star turn in the seller, Hughes was asked about the title challenge as he tends to take stock after Glorious Goodwood.
"Very hard," he said. "If I were to go and ride a couple of four-timers I'd have to reassess and we have a lot of runners at this time of year, but I'm just going about my business at the moment."
The man of the moment might have to reassess as he then got a maiden victory out of 2-1 favourite Sir Tyto in the Maison Maurice Handicap.
Trainer Peter Makin said: "He ran well last time so we were quite confident and we booked Hughesie to throw everything at it."
Oisin Murphy rode a successful waiting race aboard Andrew Balding's Mime Dance in the John Smith's Brighton Mile.
It looked for a long way as if Scott Dixon's long journey from Retford would pay off with Piceno asserting dominance from the front, but Murphy was just about to release his challenge.
Despite winning only once from 11 previous starts, Mime Dance was a 5-1 joint-favourite and taking the first-day feature by half a length from the equally determined Piceno.
"They went quick and my horse doesn't travel very well," said Murphy. "My instructions were to sit and wait and come with one good run."
Lady Frances (100-30) paid for the long journey from Mark Johnston's Middleham stable in the EBF/Star Great Pubs & Bars Fillies' Handicap.
Mick Channon has a good record in the Old Mount Handicap, and it was furthered by the Charles Bishop-ridden Lunarian (7-2).