The last time I wrote was on the eve of Cheltenham and, while I loved the buzz of the Festival, I was disappointed not to get closer than Zankandar’s seventh place in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
But the races come thick and fast at this time of year, so I was off to Fontwell the day after the Gold Cup for a winning spin on a nice mare of Anthony Honeyball’s called Ms Parfois. She’s a good mare, and will definitely improve for another summer under her belt. She could be a Listed mare with a bit of luck.
Last Sunday at Taunton, I got a chance for Mr Tizzard aboard a horse called Valhalla. He’d actually run pretty well in some decent races through the winter, and really seemed to relish the quicker ground. This was my first time riding him, with the plan to make it if nobody else went on. We got a fairly soft lead and he saw it out very well. He’s up six for that which will make things tougher but there could be another win in him before the season’s out on top of the ground.
Getting up to date, and April has started really well with a lovely winner for Anthony at Uttoxeter and a double for the boss yesterday at Wincanton. The trip up to the Midlands was worthwhile as I got to sit on a fine big horse called Indian Brave. He’d come to the Honeyball yard from Neil Mulholland, and this was his first run for his new stable and his first win. Despite still being quite gawky even on his seventh career start, I was always happy at the back of the field and he picked up his main rival – the odds-on Bardd – comfortably even though we made a bit of a hash of the last. He’s got a workable rating (121) and looks to have a really nice future when he goes chasing.
Wincanton must be my luckiest track, as Matt was telling me I’ve now got 20 wins from 49 rides there! That’s after a double from three rides yesterday afternoon. I guess I was expected to win on the 4/9 chance Diamond Guy, though he is only my second winner in a National Hunt Flat race. He couldn’t have done it more easily, coasting clear by almost a distance. Who knows what he beat, but he definitely has an engine and may just be the pick of the boss’s bumper horses this season. As easily as he won today, he’ll be a much better horse on winter ground.
Less predictable perhaps was the performance of San Satiro in a small field novices’ hurdle earlier in the afternoon. He was only the third favourite of four in the race, though you’d never have known it the ease with which he won. The margin of two lengths doesn’t really reflect his superiority and he was well on top at the finish. Again, the quick ground was not really to his advantage, so he can be rated a bit better than the bare margin and could be a fair animal next term.
Moving on, I’m really looking forward to my first ride in the National this weekend, and to the Aintree meeting generally. I had three rides at the meeting last season and I’m really hoping to go one better than the second place Virak and I recorded in the Listed three mile handicap chase.
I ride Old Guard in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle this afternoon. The former Greatwood Hurdle winner has been out of form most of this season but did show some of his old spark when a close up seventh of 25 in the Coral Cup. In truth, he ought to be outclassed in this field, but there is good prize money all the way down so it’s worth rolling the dice.
Ultragold is an interesting runner in the Topham. Colin’s horses are just starting to fire again and this lad wasn’t beaten far in the Grand Annual. If he gets a clear round in, he’ll give a good account of himself having won over this sort of trip a couple of years ago.
On Saturday, I’m really excited to be involved in the greatest race of them all, the Randox Health Grand National, aboard my old mate, Just A Par. The ten-year-old won a veterans’ chase for me last time out and, if you think that’s not good enough form, keep in mind that Pineau De Re did the exact same thing when he won the National in 2014.
The problem for me is that Just A Par goes to the sale after racing tonight (Thursday) and it will be up to the new owners whether they want to stick with his current rider, i.e. me!, or choose their own. I’ve got everything crossed that I get a spin in the big one but will just have to wait and see how it goes.
CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS’ TITLE
I’ve moved to 54 winners for the season thanks to that Wincanton double yesterday, and with time running out to the end of the season I’m twenty clear of my good friend, Dave Noonan who has 34 on the scoresheet. With three weeks left to the end of the season, it’s probably over as a contest now but I’m keen to keep my head down and ride a few more winners before the campaign is up.
That’s all from me this time. I’ll be back at the end of the month with a review of what has been a really exciting campaign. Speak to you then.