It was a quieter week for me last week, though quality more than made up for quantity.
I rode a nice mare for Mark Tompkins at Huntingdon on Tuesday, called Sweeping Beauty and, though she was sent off at 50/1, she made a really eye-catching debut. She’s quite a buzzy filly so we decided to drop her in. During the race, she travelled great and quickened up well when I asked her to finish second, only beaten two lengths by the winner. She might run at Warwick in a mares’ bumper next and hopefully I’ll have the ride on her because I think she will go very close.
Then it was all roads lead to Cheltenham for the really competitive Open meeting, where I had four rides on the Saturday, including Frodon in the big race, the BetVictor Gold Cup.
First up was the staying handicap chase, where I got the leg up on Viconte Du Noyer for Colin Tizzard. Looking at the race beforehand I thought it was a really bold decision by Mr Tizzard to run this horse at Cheltenham, stepping up in trip almost a mile and a half, because he ran a brilliant race at Aintree last season over two miles in the Red Rum Handicap Chase: getting hampered up the run in and only being beaten two lengths it was an excellent performance.
In the race itself, Viconte Du Noyer travelled and jumped great the whole way, and I was able to deliver him at the second last with his challenge. He went on to win by a length and a half after I’d tried to keep a bit up my sleeve to make sure we would get up that everlasting Cheltenham hill!
I’m very grateful to Mr and Mrs Potts for giving me the opportunity to ride for them in such a big race, and really pleased I was able to win for them.
In the big race of the meeting, I rode Frodon, a Grade 2 winner the previous Saturday. Still only four, he was travelling beautifully until he banked the fence at the top of the hill, four out, which finished his chances of winning this day. After that, I just coaxed him home to finish down the field. He remains a horse with plenty of upside for the season.
Millanisi Boy is a nice chasing type but he was a big price for the handicap hurdle over two and a half miles. I wanted to keep wide throughout because the inside was beginning to get very patchy, and turning in I thought I was going to win. But we just lacked a bit of toe up the hill, running a great race to finish third, eventually beaten four lengths. That was off a mark of 122, and his trainer, Richard Woollacott, is now thinking about going over fences with him, though he may have one more run in a handicap hurdle first. He should make up into a very decent chaser when the time comes.
In the closing Listed mares’ bumper, I was on board Pearl Royale, a really big imposing filly by Robin Des Champs. She was a no hoper according to the betting but, though very keen throughout, she was only beaten seven lengths by the winner, finishing a very eye-catching 5th. I think she will be a mare that we could be seeing a fair amount of in Listed mares’ races in the not too distant future.
On Sunday, I had just the one ride, but it was on a very talented lad in the Greatwood Hurdle. I won the race twelve months earlier on Old Guard, my first big race success, and this year I rode Modus who is owned by Mr McManus. He was second at the Cheltenham Festival in the Champion Bumper of 2014 and it’s always a positive when they’ve run well around Cheltenham.
In truth, he didn’t really travel like a contender throughout most of the race but turning down the hill I had a lovely run up the inner which got me into a nice position before turning into the home straight. From there, I jumped the last upsides and probably nosed in front halfway up the run in, but unfortunately we got out-battled by North Hill Harvey. Still, it was a really nice performance by Modus, and I think he will be a serious two mile chaser in time.
It looks like being a fairly quiet week for me, though I’ll probably be heading to Haydock on Saturday to renew my partnership with Old Guard in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle. He’s still only five, and this will be his first spin over hurdles since he ran behind Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle last December.
I may also get the call for Mr Mix in the Grade 3 Betfair Exchange “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle. He ran a cracking race in the Silver Trophy last time, and would have nearly won but for stepping at the third last. Even so, he was only beaten two lengths, with Taquin De Seuil [BetVictor Gold Cup winner] a length behind, and that is very good form. He has a live chance in an open looking race.
Have a great week.