Vale Tommy ‘T.J’ Hughes Senior

14 July 2023 Written by VRC

The Victoria Racing Club is saddened to hear of the passing of highly regarded former Flemington trainer, Tommy ‘T.J’ Hughes Senior. He was 93 years of age.

Remembered for training many winners out of his Flemington stables, his top line performers included Heroic Stone, Grand Cidium, Rechabite, No Parole, Rajah Sahib, Gay Master, Umatilla, Rechabite, Symbollico and Grey Song, Hughes was a master of setting horses for specific targets. But for all his race wins, the one race he is synonymous with was a close second in the 1979 Melbourne Cup with Salamander.

It is now folklore that Hughes backed stable elect Salamander to win a sizeable amount of money weeks out only to be denied victory in the shadows of the post by the Bart Cummings trained Hyperno. A short half head was the margin.

It would also be remembered as an epic battle at Flemington between two master jockeys in Harry White and Roy Higgins who matched each other stride for stride down the Flemington straight until White got the upper hand on the Bart Cummings trained Hyperno. Cold comfort for Hughes, but the race is remembered as one for the ages in Australia’s greatest race. Salamander would also go down narrowly in the 1976 Victoria Derby behind the Colin Hayes trained Unaware.

VRC Chairman Neil Wilson paid tribute to Tommy.

“Tommy Hughes Senior was an important part of the fabric of Flemington and many people enjoyed his company at the racetrack. We send our condolences to Tommy’s family and friends.”

While Salamander would be a headline horse for Hughes, Grand Cidium was arguably his best. A win in the 1973 Caulfield Guineas and six wins in nine starts boosted the stocks of the talented galloper.

A win in the 1975 Sydney Cup from Gay Master was also held in high regard by Hughes. 

In an era which boasted Bart Cummings, Tommy Smith and Colin Hayes, Hughes comfortably held his own in what is a most competitive industry. He was a very good judge of horse flesh and backed his judgement accordingly. This would often send reverberations through the betting ring. Our thoughts go to the Hughes family.