Championship chasing becomes a great deal easier if a jockey can guarantee a four-timer every weekend and Brian Hughes consolidated his title hunting 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 the warm favourite Starplex.

Since rejoining Keith Dalgleish, Starplex has bounded back to his best form and was recording his fourth course success at Newcastle.

Three races later, handshaking binocular holders were focussing their lenses nervously on Brian’s 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 Brian himself was back in the saddle for the next event on the card.

This was an interesting booking. He was partnering Theflickeringlight for Phil Kirby in the mares hurdle. Brian does not often ride for the North Yorkshire trainer and his association with the mare had not escaped the punters’s 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.

The booking of Brian Hughes to take the mount for Phil Kirby once again illustrates the determination of his agent Richard Hale to leave no stone untouched in his quest to unearth possible winning opportunities for his title-seeking client.

Brian 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 Keith Dalgleish.

On both occasions Brian 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 now for the first time has gone into the busy Christmas programme as the country’s leading jumps jockey.

Brian 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.

The Tizzards have a clutch of very talented and expensively bought young hurdlers and they rate Master Debonair as one of their top Cheltenham contenders. He coped with the difficult conditions at Ascot with disdain and travelled strongly throughout the contest. After the race Colin Tizzard was planning to run him in the Supreme Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival followed by other Grade 1 options at Aintree and Punchestown.

One doubts if even a good prospect like Ribble Valley will again be sent off an odds-on shot to beat him.

It did not prove to be an outstanding weekend for Nicky Richards at Newcastle either. Amberose was predictably turned over by the well-handicapped Theflickeringlight and also at Newcastle Glittering Love lost his unbeaten record over fences when he came down at the end of the back straight.

Like Ribble Valley he must be given the chance to redeem himself. He was still well in touch at the time of his fall and bearing his proven stamina Glittering Love could have taken command over the final two fences.

This weekend sees Simply Ned return to Ireland in the bid to win the Grade 1 two-mile chase which he has 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.

Jimmy 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.

Charlotte 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 Jimmy Moffatt tend to go well fresh and Charlotte 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.

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

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.

Phil 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 out the choice.