Tommy Hughes Jr believes Black Vanquish can add another chapter to family’s decorated history   Leave a comment

Tommy Hughes Jr believes Black Vanquish can add another chapter to family’s decorated history

Trainer Tommy Hughes Jr at his Flemington stables that he was almost turfed out of due to

Trainer Tommy Hughes Jr at his Flemington stables that he was almost turfed out of due to a lack of winners, then came along a colt called Black Vanquish, who he hopes will turn his fortunes around. Picture: Colleen Petch Source: News Corp Australia

YOUNG Tommy Hughes Jr isn’t that young anymore.

Hughes is now 48 and between him and his old man, the original Tom, the legend, the Hughes family have been residents of the Flemington training block for more than 65 years.

Others came and went but the Hughes weren’t going anywhere.

Old Tom retired many years ago as one of the most successful ever Flemington trainers. His best horses included Rajah Sahib, Grand Cidium, Salamander and Heroic Stone.

Old Tom was a big, lethal punter. The stable won so much the day Heroic Stone won the 1965 George Adams Handicap that they stored the winnings in the horse’s stable. The next morning, he’d eaten most of it, which prompted the legendary Hughes quip: “He won it, he’s entitled to eat it.’’

Tommy Hughes Jr at his Flemington stables. Picture: Colleen Petch

Tommy Hughes Jr at his Flemington stables. Picture: Colleen Petch Source: News Corp Australia

The wins and the great stories were all part of the Flemington legend of the Hughes family and after old Tom retired at 74 in 2004, young Tom reined in the family betting a fair bit, but the good horses, like Umatilla, Delago Brom and Titanic Jack, kept the legend alive.

But racing does not respect legends and for two years young Tom failed to train a city winner. The Victoria Racing Club likes its trainers to win races. Hughes wasn’t, nor was he quite up to date with his rent.

One morning about a year ago his horses were blocked from entering the track. The club suspended his lease and Hughes fought it, successfully, at VCAT.

His rent was paid and the Hughes remained a Flemington trainer, albeit one on unspoken notice to train more winners.

“I was never going to give up; you never give up,’’ he said. “Maybe I’d have had to have moved, but we hung in there, got it all sorted.

“It was a tough time. We’d struggled a bit, gone through one of those lean periods. The kids — boys James and William — weren’t living with me at the time but we were making plans.

“The whole situation with the club put things on hold with the kids for a good year. That was the worst part.

“You can handle getting up to slow horses. Your kid’s not up the road crook at the Royal Children’s (Hospital), all you’ve got is a stable of slow horses. It’s not that bad.’’

It got better.

The Whittenbury family had been stalwarts for 40 years. “They’ve been the number one client for a bloody long time,’’ Hughes said.

Trainer Tommy Hughes and Black Vanquish. Picture: Colleen Petch

Trainer Tommy Hughes and Black Vanquish. Picture: Colleen Petch Source: News Corp Australia

They had owned and bred stable stars going back to the 1980s; horses like Rechabite, Titanic Jack, Ponton Flyer, Miss Octopussy and now Chill Party, winner of the Alister Clark Stakes in March.

The Whittenburys helped out when Hughes had some rent issues and they’ve helped out again by breeding him a horse that might ensure his resurrection.

Black Vanquish is favourite to win the Thoroughbred Club Cup at Caulfield. He is a last-start super impressive Flemington winner and a half-brother to two of Hughes’ better recent horses, Minnesota Shark and Miss Octopussy.

They were good, he is better.

“He might be the best I’ve ever had,’’ Hughes said. “He’s a bit special, a real nice horse. He’s a kind horse. John Hawkes always said the best Lonhros were the quiet ones and this horse is kind.’’

Some big stables didn’t buy yearlings this year but Hughes, who was almost out on the street a year ago, bought a handful. In a few weeks, with an eye to the spring, he will have a solid dozen in work.

He reckons Chill Party might be Caulfield Cup class and Black Vanquish Caulfield Guineas class via the Brisbane winter carnival.

The kids are home and healthy, the rent is paid and the horses can gallop.

“Been tough, yeah been tough,’’ he said.

“But the other week was my best ever; Black Vanquish wins at Flemington, I’m in bed by 8pm, up early Sunday to watch my two boys play their first game of football. Can you beat that?’’

Originally published as Hugh and cry far from over

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Posted May 2, 2015 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

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