Instead, he had the offer of a solitary ride over the course of the Festival’s four days and, with Skelton just six winners behind his leading 116 in the current order before Wednesday’s racing, the decision to stay away from National Hunt’s biggest week altogether was a painful but necessary one.
The quest to be champion jockey, he says, is “relentless”, but adds: “A trainer rang me up the other day on my way to Warwick to say, ‘Thanks for coming to ride this horse’.
“But, in truth, I’d go anywhere to ride if I have a chance of a winner. It’s that joint drive — a fear of failure but the chance to ride a winner is the main factor. And I’ve had more rides than most, but I enjoy that aspect of it. I’m fairly used to the way it works.”
To sum up the relentlessness of that Warwick day in question, Hughes’s alarm clock sounded at 3.30 in the morning and he was out of the house before four, tiptoeing around his Yorkshire home so as not to wake up his wife Lucy and their two children.
Still in darkness, Hughes was on the gallops before driving 175 miles for one ride, which pulled up long before the race was run, before he made the return journey home in time to say goodnight to his children, Rory and Olivia.
It veers on an obsessiveness that unites the most successful jockeys, from former foe AP McCoy to his successor as champion jockey in Richard Johnson. Such is Hughes’s drive, he was even on the gallops on his wedding day.
For all his success — he boasts more than 1,000 career wins — there is an inherent modesty to Hughes.
Compared to McCoy or Johnson, he says: “The only way we’re the same is we both wear breeches. I’m nowhere near as good as them.”
The reality is that Hughes has gone under the radar more than should be the case for his achievements, something he puts down to being a rider from the north, the first based in that part of the country to be crowned champion jump jockey since Jonjo O’Neill in 1980.
And despite this year’s Festival absence, it is a place he wants to be next year.
“The aim is always the same — you want to be champion jockey, you want to be riding a lot of winners, you want to ride Cheltenham Festival winners,” he said.
“And it’s pure greed. The more you have, the more you want. You can dwell on the successes [later], it’s always about tomorrow.”
As for Sedgefield on Tuesday, six runners equated to six rides without a win. On Wednesday, the chase resumed.
Brian Hughes is top of the 2020/21 Jump Jockeys’ Championship. For more info go to greatbritishracing.com