Brian Hughes has played down talk of the jump jockeys’ championship despite making much his best start to the season.

He’s been runner-up to Richard Johnson in the last two campaigns and, though he’s ‘only’ in third place at present, he’s ridden far more winners at this stage of the season than in either of the last two.

Hughes’s tally was 54 as jump racing resumed in Britain on Monday following a five-day break, behind Harry Skelton (84) and Johnson (76).

He’s a best-priced 9-1 for the Stobart-sponsored championship but the jockey stressed he would not start thinking about the title until the spring.

“I want to try to ride the horses to the best of my ability and ride winners and if that means I’m in contention for the championship at that point of the season then we’ll obviously think about it,” he said.

“Every year my goal is the same, to ride 100 winners in a season and a few good ones along the way. The last two seasons I never really thought I was going to be in contention for the championship.

“I was about 30 winners behind Richard Johnson last season and Philip Hobbs’s horses weren’t firing so I’ve still got a lot of inroads to make.”

Hughes, who signed up as first jockey to Donald McCain this year, rode 50 winners from the start of May until the end of August, compared to 24 in the same period in 2017 and 19 in 2016.

“It’s gone pretty good,” he said. “I’ve had a busy summer. I’ve had a lot more rides and it’s my best summer so far with 54 winners.

“I’m riding for more trainers and linked up with Donald this season – I’m enjoying that and riding for everyone else I rode for before. You need a bit of luck as well and so far I’ve had a lot of it.”

Flat jockey Paul Mulrennan, meanwhile, who has been sidelined since fracturing three vertebrae in a fall on the gallops in July, has still to set a date for his comeback.

“I’m getting there, I’m on the mend,” he said. “It’s taken a bit longer than I thought it would and hoped it would, but I’ve got to give it the time and be patient.

“I haven’t got a date set, I just want to get myself right and 100 per cent before I come back.”

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