Brian Hughes stretched three clear of Richard Johnson in the race to be crowned this season’s champion jumps jockey after enjoying a treble at Newcastle.
Having been forced to chase home 20-times champion Sir Anthony McCoy on no less than 16 occasions, Johnson finally claimed the title at the end of the 2015-16 campaign and has sine won three further championships.
However, he appears to have a genuine fight on his hands this term, with northern-based rider Hughes enjoying an excellent campaign – and the pair headed into Monday’s action locked together on 111 winners apiece.
While Johnson was out of luck with his three rides – suffering a fall from his final mount Stonific in the novice handicap hurdle – Hughes rattled off a hat-trick.
His first success came aboard the Ruth Jefferson-trained Clondaw Caitlin, who justified even-money favouritism with a dominant display in the Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 EBF Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Hughes doubled up on James Ewart’s Dunly (13-8 favourite) in the Equine Products UK Handicap Chase before rounding off an excellent afternoon’s work by landing the Border Minstrel Pub Handicap Hurdle on 3-1 market leader Teescomponentstrig, trained by Gillian Boanas.
Looking ahead to the rest of the week, Hughes told Sky Sports Racing: “Navajo Pass is in at Cheltenham on Saturday, so we’ll see if he goes down there. I might even get back for some of the later races in Doncaster.
“I’m at Catterick on Wednesday and Wetherby on Thursday. I’m at Doncaster on Friday and Sedgefield on Sunday.
“We’ve got some nice horses running this week, so we’ll hope for a bit of luck.”