Donald McCain and Nicky Richards have led a host of trainer tributes to newly-crowned champion jockey Brian Hughes.
The 34-year-old was officially confirmed on Monday as the leading rider for the 2019/20 National Hunt season, after the coronavirus pandemic brought an abrupt end to the campaign last month.
Hughes is Grand National winner McCain’s first-choice rider and he hailed the his dedication in achieving the feat with 141 winners.
He told VBET: “What with him joining our yard and his others contacts in the north, there was always a chance of him becoming champion jockey. And now he’s achieved the dream I couldn’t be happier for him.
“I think this is a story that has slightly been overlooked.
“The fact is that he’s thoroughly deserved it. His work ethic is second to none, but he’s also a high-class jockey and a top man.
“Nothing has ever come easy to Brian. He’s had to work hard every day of his life to get to where he is now. It’s also fantastic for the north to have a champion jockey. It’s magic!”
Richards also has Hughes as his go-to rider and drew parallels with former champions who had also ridden for him and his father, Gordon.
He said: “We’ve been very lucky at Greystoke as we had Ron Barry and Jonjo (O’Neill), who were both champion jockeys. And now we’ve got Brian, who has ridden a good few winners for us.
“There are definitely similarities between the three of them in that they work very, very hard and have a lot of self-belief.
“Brian always has time and advice for the lads and lasses at the yard and that shows you how much of a decent human being he is.”
Ruth Jefferson has also employed Hughes’ services on stable star Waiting Patiently among others, maintaining a link established by her late father, Malcolm.
She said: “He’s been on an upward trajectory for such a long time and it’s so nice to see someone who has such burning ambition achieve their dreams.
“Brian and dad grew together as a team and that helped him progress as a jockey.
“He’s achieved something most can only dream of.”
Hughes began his racing career with Kevin Prendergast in Ireland, and the veteran handler is thrilled to see the rider achieve the highest accolade.
He said: “He’s always been a very nice boy and a very good jockey. He started his career with me all those years ago, and we recommended to him that it would be a good idea to go to England and become a jumps jockey instead of a Flat jockey.
“We’ve stayed in touch and he rode Katie T to win the Ladbrokes Hurdle for me back in 2015.
“We’re very, very happy for him. We could never have visualised that he’d one day be a champion jockey, but he’s always been very, very dedicated – and that gets you a long way in life.”