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Hughes' heroics stuff of champion

A CAREER of ups and downs, both on and off the track, were all forgotten about on Monday as Richard Hughes enjoyed one of his finest days in racing when he rode seven winners at Windsor.

JUST last month, the Kildare native rode six across two meetings, but on Monday he became only the second man to ride seven winners at the one meeting.

Hughes was starting to put the icing on the cake of a fantastic season, which looks all but certain to see him crowned champion jockey for the first time.

His autobiography released earlier this year, was an open and honest account of a life that could have very easily seen him fade away and be a 'has-been', but the support of his Curragh-based father Dessie, mother Eileen, father-in-law and boss Richard Hannon and, most importantly, his wife Lizzie, meant that the cream rose to the very top.

Despite being one of the tallest jockeys to hold a flat licence, Hughes is recognised as one of the most stylish and the honour of being crowned champion is not only a worthy one, but a remarkable achievement given his height and the fact that he is restricted in what he can ride due to his weight.

The realisation of Hughes fulfilling an ambition to be champion jockey after a near miss in 2010 and controversial bans last year, is all the sweeter after he missed the first five weeks of this season due to a ban he picked up in India, which made him vow never to return riding there, and also found the BHA wanting as they failed to stand by the rider on appeal.

Indeed, this week last year Hughes also made the headlines when he handed in his licence after picking up a ban at Kempton when falling foul to the draconian rulings that were the new whip rules at the time.

Next month, when he dethrones Paul Hanagan and becomes champion, Hughes will get due reward for the hot baths, strict diet and stern lifestyle that he is forced to live and it will be all worth while.

There won't be a more deserving or popular winner than the 39-year-old, nor will there be a prouder man in Ireland than Dessie Hughes.