Riding with greater confidence and competence than any other jockey at present, the 40-year-old believed his wait would end 24 hours earlier in the 2000 Guineas, but Toronado was unable to fulfil his dreams with a tame fourth place.
Hughes had banished the disappointment and steadied himself for another white-knuckle ride on hold-up filly Sky Lantern (9-1), who charged through late to deprive the sponsors’ runner Just The Judge by half a length.
Already a Group One winner in last year’s Moyglare, Sky Lantern, Hughes and trainer Richard Hannon had shared other subsequent disappointments, such when she was stuck in traffic during the Breeders’ Cup and latterly when collared by Hot Snap in last month’s Nell Gwyn Stakes.
Henry Cecil’s Hot Snap, the 5-2 favourite, was a faded version of her former self and never got involved, eventually finishing ninth.
Just The Judge, who is part-owned by Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing operation, had occupied the position at the head of the market before the Nell Gwyn, but performed far better than her drifting odds of 7-1 might have suggested.
Ridden prominently by Jamie Spencer, Charlie Hills’ filly appeared booked to maintain her unbeaten record as she passed Winning Express (eventually fourth) with a furlong to go, but Hughes once again timed his challenge to perfection and darted through to lead just before the line.
“About bloody time,” said Hughes.
“I think my wife was more upset than I was (after Toronado) – I was consoling her all night.
“I remember telling her it was only a horse race and there were more important things.
“She said, ’I know it’s only a horse race, but you never seem to win the big ones’.
“I’ve won plenty of Classics everywhere else and I was pretty sure one day I’d get the horse, but it’s a monkey off my back.
“It’s very hard, as for the last 10 years Aidan O’Brien has been dominating but Richard has been stepping up the quality.”
Hannon, who had saddled three winners of the 2000 Guineas, instead decided to visit his local track of Salisbury, and was represented by his son, assistant and eventual successor Richard jnr.
He said: “We were pretty low after yesterday. It was a very disappointing, but she deserved a bit of luck, this filly.
“She went to America (Breeders’ Cup) and didn’t get any luck and then she bumped into a very good filly (Hot Snap) who didn’t run her race today.
“I’m delighted for Hughesie. He’s one of the best jockeys ever and I’m just delighted he’s done it on one of ours.
“We’ll look at the Irish Guineas now, but she might well go further. I’d say a mile and a quarter would be as far as she’d go.”
Spencer was given a three-day ban (May 19-21) for using his whip on Just The Judge without allowing sufficient time to respond, while Hills looked crestfallen.
Moth had been supplemented for £30,000 after landing a Curragh maiden and overcame apparent inexperience for third.
Jockey Joseph O’Brien said: “She ran a blinder. I had to weave through to get a run and she stayed on well, but I think she’d be more suited by an even track as she’s still quite green.”