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Byline: GARRY OWEN (Gordon Brown)

THE championship may already be out of sight for another year but most punters will still agree that Richard Hughes is in the form of his life at the moment.

While Kieren Fallon heads inexorably towards his sixth crown in seven seasons, `Hughesy' has been grabbing the headlines wearing the famous silks of his retainer and one of the world's biggest owners, Prince Khaled Abdullah.

A treble at Ascot last Saturday featured a Group 3 strike for Tillerman while he was also among the winners' at the Newmarket July Meeting where John Gosden's brilliant sprinter Oasis Dream blitzed to glory in the July Cup.

Unfortunately Hamilton Park racegoers were robbed of a rare glimpse of Hughes on Thursday when flight problems saw him curtail his first visit to the Lanarkshire track since his apprentice days.

He said: "It must have been 10 years since I rode at the track as I was a kid with Mick Channon at the time so I was disappointed I couldn't get there. Maybe I'll get the chance to get up later in the year."

Looking back to last week, Irish-born Hughes added: "I'd been second in the July Cup three times before and I really felt I had a great chance this year. It was also my first Group 1 in Britiain so it was nice to finally go and win it.

"Oasis Dream was real electric away from the gates and when I joined Johnny Murtagh on the favourite he picked up good and shook off Choisir in the closing stages. We won hard held to be honest and he's very, very quick.

"In the King's Stand at Royal Ascot we were a length behind the Australian horse at the furlong marker but just as I was going to pick him off my horse blew up on me. He's one that would also win at five furlongs but I knew he'd an even better chance of beating Choisir over six.

"He's an exciting prospect to be associated with and I think Mr Gosden is aiming him next at the Nunthorpe at York followed by the Haydock Sprint Cup and then the Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc day."

But even a high flying jockey can't be in two places at once and while riding his Ascot three-timer, Hughes missed partnering Abdullah's Far Lane to victory in the pounds130,000 John Smith's Cup at York.

He said philosophically: "On the book I knew both Far Lane and Tillerman had pretty equal chances of winning but Group races are more important to the Prince and his Juddmonte operation.

"Anyway I can't really complain after the spell I've been enjoying - so long may it continue."

Likeable Hughes, one of the tallest jockeys in the weighing-room, is the son of former jockey Dessie Hughes, successful in the 1978 Champion Hurdle on Monksfield.

Like his father he rode over jumps but when he weight settled down he concentrated on the level although he did briefly return to the National Hunt scene in March to ride unplaced Storm Boxer for Paddy Mullins in the Cheltenham Festival Bumper. …