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Hughes in groove for National with tasty Tucker win

By Frank Brownlow

Ulster jockey Brian Hughes tuned up nicely for next Saturday's Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree by taking his tally of winners for the season to 101 when Bob Tucker triumphed at Newbury.

Hughes is fifth in the jockeys' title race with Richard Johnson set to succeed Ulster legend AP McCoy as champion.

McCoy retired last April at the age of 40 after an incredible 20 successive titles - Johnson was runner-up in 16 of those and will become champion for the first time later this month at the ripe old age of 38.

Bob Tucker claimed a second victory of the campaign after getting the better of a pulsating conclusion to the Equine Productions Handicap Chase.

Although his recent form figures were less than inspiring the nine-year-old bounced back to form when overhauling Kings Cross late on to add to his win at Worcester in October.

Pulling clear with Kings Cross after the last, it looked as though the Charlie Longsdon-trained gelding was going to have to settle for second best.

With one last effort the 11-2 chance pulled out more when it mattered most to chin the Tony Carroll-trained runner on the line and take victory by a nose.

Winning rider Hughes, who earlier this week hit the 100 winner mark for the season, said: "I thought going over the last it was going to be a bit more comfortable, but the other horse picked up.

"He won first time out this year and was only a pound above his last winning weight.

"I know Charlie thought he was in good form and the better ground has helped him," added Hughes, who is now just five short of his record tally of 106, achieved two seasons ago.

While the Grand National may be off the agenda for Potters Cross this season, a potential appearance in the world-famous prize at a later date moved closer following victory in the Oakley Handicap Chase at Newbury.

Potters Cross completed a birthday double for winning trainer Rebecca Curtis and rider Trevor Whelan, Bigbadjohn (20-1) getting the ball rolling.

North Down trainer Clare Louise Cannon had a winner at Dundalk last night, 8-1 shot Coreczka triumphing in the Paddy Power Handicap.

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