Championship chasing becomes a great deal easier if a jockey can guarantee a four-timer every weekend and Brian Hughes consolidated his threat to unseat Richard Johnson as champion jumps jockey with another winning accumulator at Newcastle last Saturday.

Brian arrived at Gosforth Park on the back of a disappointing Ascot defeat for Ribble Valley, but he instantly regained his winning touch by landing the Newcastle opener on warm favourite Starplex. Since rejoining Keith Dalgleish, Starplex has bounded back to his best form and was recording his fourth success at Newcastle.

Three races later, handshaking binocular holders were focusing their lenses nervously on Hughes’ prone shape as he lay momentarily still on the mud-covered turf after his mount Glittering Love had clouted the birch and fallen at the last in the back straight.

Happily, both horse and rider appeared unscathed and Hughes himself was back in the saddle for the next event on the card.

This was an interesting booking, as he was partnering Theflickeringlight for Phil Kirby in the mares hurdle. Hughes does not often ride for the North Yorkshire trainer and his association with the mare had not escaped the punters’ watchful gaze. How right they were too.

Theflickeringlight romped home to score by the widest of margins. She was running in a handicap for the first time and with her bloodless victory sure to have come under the scrutiny of ‘the weights-juggler’, the likelihood is that the mare will run again before she is reassessed.

Hughes completed his four-timer by winning the final two races on the well-backed pair of Ettila De Sivola for James Ewart, and Let Me Be for Dalgleish. On both occasions he rallied his mounts to regain their leads after looking likely to be caught in the closing stages.

He reached his 100th winner of the season on Let Me Be and for the first time has gone into the busy Christmas programme as the country’s leading jumps jockey.

Hughes had been at Ascot to resume his partnership with the promising Greystoke youngster Ribble Valley. Carrying the familiar colours of David Wesley Yates, the gelding had won both his previous two outings over hurdles following last season’s successful campaign in bumpers.

Ribble Valley had been impressive at Wetherby and he travelled south to Ascot last Friday as a well-regarded order for the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Hurdle Trial.

In the event, the potential Cumbrian star finished a well-beaten second but he should by no means be written off. The ground at Ascot was testing to say the least.

Ribble Valley found it very hard work to hurdle with his previous fluency and, most of all, he was opposed by an unexposed but patently classy sort from the Colin Tizzard stable in Master Debonair.

This weekend sees Simply Ned return to Ireland in the bid to win the Grade 1 two-mile chase, which he won both last season and in 2017.

The Greystoke veteran clearly faces a stern test, but Nicky Richards is really chuffed with the way he has been working on the home gallops.

Physically, he still runs like a horse half his age. He ran splendidly at Cheltenham in November, he enjoys racing at Leopardstown and he goes well for Mark Walsh. Write him off at your peril.

James Moffatt has not had many runners since racing ended for Cartmel’s summer season in late August but The Steward has put in a couple of creditable runs and he saddled an autumn winner at Carlisle.

That winner was partnered by Charlotte Jones and the excellent young claimer was again in the winner’s circle after the opener at Haydock last Saturday.

Jones had the mount on Minella Charmer and she judged the fractions to a nicety, making every yard of the running to fend off the late run of the favourite Fin and Game.

Minella Charmer had not raced since March, but horses trained by Moffatt tend to go well fresh and Jones rode a positive race from the front on the winner, who is part owned by Varlian Vyner-Brooks, the former racecourse commentator, a regular ‘caller’ at Cartmel in the 1960 and 1970s.

Moffatt has a sound strike-rate at Kelso and any entries from his Cartmel stable at Sunday’s meeting will need noting.

The feature race at Wetherby this afternoon is the 2m Castleford Chase which sees course specialist Lady Buttons back over fences after finishing fourth behind Cornerstone Lad at Newcastle.

Kirby’s mare has to be hard to beat, but the Cumbrian contenders Duke of Navan and Tonto’s Spirit look better value at the current odds with Duke Of Navan, not beaten that far over course and distance last time, the choice.