Wednesday 21 March 2018

Hughes trails Hanagan by two in frantic title duel

Nick Robson

PAUL Hanagan remains clear favourite for the Flat jockeys' title in England after a day of fluctuating fortunes for him and main rival Richard Hughes at yesterday's two all-weather meetings.

Hanagan -- who started the day two ahead -- moved four clear early on in the day with a Southwell double, but Kildare native Hughes roared back at Wolverhampton last night to close the gap to two going into the final day.

Richard Fahey gave Hanagan his first winner at Southwell when Sloop Johnb (6/1) prevailed in a blanket finish to the sprint handicap. Always prominent, the four-year-old looked like being swamped late on. But seen at his strongest, Hanagan managed to hold on at the line to win by a head from Lost In Paris to take his advantage over his rival to three.

The gap was then extended to four when Diggeratt (3/1) ground out a valuable success in the claimer.

Hughes was originally precluded from riding yesterday, but having failed to make it to Kempton on Wednesday evening following traffic problems, he managed to pick up six rides.

Hughes pulled back the deficit to three winners as he guided Towy Boy to success in the Breeders' Cup Live On ATR Handicap. Hanagan looked to be going the better of the pair turning in as his mount Ability N Delivery cruised up to challenge.

But Hughes refused to panic in behind and as the first couple began to tire, Towy Boy came through smoothly to score decisively by a length.

Hanagan quickly restored his four-winner advantage as he found the target on Mark Johnston's Home Office in the maiden. The 5/2 shot was always close to the pace and travelled ominously well turning for home.

Once Hanagan pushed the button, his mount quickly accelerated and although Motivado managed to keep tabs on him, Home Office had half a length in hand passing the post. Hughes was unplaced on Valley Tiger.

Hughes then reduced Hanagan's lead to three again by winning on Pipers Piping. Hanagan was the first to commit for home on Kenton Street, but his effort was short-lived and Hughes ensured that Paul Howling's Pipers Piping stayed on best on the rail to deny favourite Collect Art by three-quarters of a length.

And Hughes ensured the gap would be just two winners heading into the final day of the season at Doncaster today as he struck on hot favourite Colour Scheme in the concluding Breeders' Cup Live Only On ATR Maiden.

The 11/10 favourite was pulling double turning for home and Hughes only had to keep his mount up to his work to score by seven lengths.

Irish Independent

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