Dual champion jockey Brian Hughes felt flattered he was able to celebrate reaching his milestone winner at Perth on Wednesday with fellow 200-club members Sir Anthony McCoy and Peter Scudamore.
The fourth and final part of the exclusive group, Richard Johnson, also gave Hughes a call to congratulate him on his way home after racing.
Hughes admitted at the start of the season his sole aim was to reclaim the championship and, along with agent Richard Hale, only began to give serious consideration to the 200 in February.
“It’s a target we thought was achievable after February when I got to the 150 mark, so I’m delighted that I finally got there,” said Hughes, who will pick up his trophy at Sandown on Saturday – this time in front of a crowd.
“AP was at Perth yesterday and Dicky (Johnson) kindly gave me a call on the way home from Perth last night. I remember Dicky doing it (200) at Perth one year. You need a lot of things to go in your favour for it to happen.
“Dicky is a gentleman, I got on well with him and AP and Dicky just reminded me to enjoy it, take a step back to appreciate it all and know what it means.
“As a jockey you are always looking forward – what happened yesterday is gone – so he told me to take a minute to enjoy Saturday as it’s hard to achieve again.
“You need to stay injury-free, have no suspensions and then you need to be on the right horses consistently. Obviously the weather has played a big part, we haven’t missed a lot of racing this year. Most importantly the horses you ride need to be in top form throughout the season, so you need all your ducks in a row.”
Hughes, who prefers to shun the limelight and admits to not being an emotional man, was touched by the reaction to Dreams Of Home’s win, with the same horse having provided him with his 100th winner earlier in the season.
“I was taken aback by the reception at Perth. I could see all the jockeys in the ring, the valets, it was a nice touch and I do appreciate it. Owners, other trainers, racegoers and I do appreciate the kind words,” he said on a call hosted by Great British Racing.
“I’m not one for the limelight and while I’m in it now, it’s not for the want of trying to get out of it!
“It was great AP and Scu were there. Being from the north of Ireland, AP McCoy, Richard Dunwoody and Tony Dobbin were my heroes growing up. AP is such a household name but a decent, genuine fella and I always got on well with him when he rode. I see Peter Scu quite a bit due to his attachment to Lucinda Russell, but they have achieved far more than I ever will.
“Joe Public knows the names Scudamore and McCoy, so it was incredibly humbling they were there and that they said very nice things in the press.”
Hughes has ridden just one graded winner this year and on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, he was riding at Sedgefield instead, but the rider underlined that is not by choice.
He said: “I’d love to ride winners at the Cheltenhams and Aintrees but I think there’s been too much made of it, I simply didn’t have the rides. Donald (McCain) is always investing in new stock, so hopefully he will find another Peddlers Cross or Overturn or Ballabriggs. I’d love to be competitive in the big races.”
One thing Hughes can be certain of, however, is that horse racing came into his life at just the right time.
“My parents would vouch that I took a bit of steering as a child,” he added.
“I was very stubborn and that hasn’t changed since racing. When everyone sets out, you want to be the best, so that has been my single-minded goal. School wasn’t high on my agenda, I would rather be riding out when I got a bit older.
“Racing gave me direction, I got my head down and it was the only thing I wanted to do. I’m not qualified to do anything else so I had to make it work.”