I was drinking at 2am the night before Royal Ascot and rode the first three winners – inside racing’s wild days
LEGENDARY jockey Richard Hughes has opened up on the wild days of racing with an astonishing look inside the booze-fuelled weighing room.
He revealed Champagne was guzzled down in saunas after a winner and corks were routinely popped the night before a massive meeting.
Former champion jockey Hughes has kicked the booze into touch – but said it used to make him feel invincibleGetty Images – Getty
ReutersIt is thought around 50,000 bottles of Champagne are drunk during Royal Ascot week – where Hughes rode three winners hours after leaving a bar[/caption]
Hughes, a three-time champion jockey in successive years from 2012, even said he was in a bar until 2am the night before the first day of Royal Ascot.
He went onto win the first three races barely 12 hours later.
Hughes was speaking to the Racing Post as part of an in-depth look into the role of alcohol among jockeys.
Oisin Murphy has spoken of his battle with booze while three-time Derby winner Johnny Murtagh has also bravely told of his demons in the past.
Hughes revealed the drinking culture ‘was all around him’ in the mid Nineties.
And he even ‘genuinely believed’ drinking made him a better jockey.
Hughes, who is now 18 years sober, told the Racing Post: “When I grew up in racing there was a huge drinking culture.
“In Ireland you’d stop for an ice cream on the way home, and when I came to England they used to stop at an off-licence.
“You’d drink three or four drinks on the way home.
“In the weighing room if someone won the second or third race and got a bottle of Champagne, we’d open it, and there was drinking in the sauna while we’re trying to lose weight.”
Hughes said only when he was sober did he realise people could go to the pub and have just one drink.
But the boozy nature of racing at that time was so much – encouraged, he said, by owners coming to the yards, racedays, drinking in the Ascot car park – that he felt everyone was drinking when he was.
He admitted it was ‘baffling’ to think the drink made him better in the saddle.
Hughes added: “I think I left a bar at 2am the Monday before Royal Ascot and rode the first three winners. I felt invincible.”
He recovered with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and the sponsorship of iconic rider Murtagh.
Racing has changed in many ways since then but unfortunately some still succumb to their vices.
Hopefully Hughes’ words will encourage them to stay on the straight and narrow.