Hi, it’s David here again. How was Cheltenham for you?
After a busy start to the year, I’ve had a few days off to recharge the batteries before the start of the flat turf season a week on Saturday. I actually managed to get in a bit of golf while visiting my family in Wales, playing at the Celtic Manor resort. I play off 16, which I suppose is reasonable, and I really enjoyed going round that championship course. I’d like to get better but just don’t have enough time. That’s my excuse anyway!
All Weather Season winding down, Flat Turf Season getting going
It’s back to the grind now, though, looking to kick on from the 30 winners for the year I currently have. I can’t catch Adam Kirby in the all-weather jockeys’ title race but will try my best to hang on to second. I have 50 winners there, as the all weather season started on 23rd October and ends on 19th April (Good Friday, All Weather Finals Day).
With Easter being so late this year, the turf season starts about three weeks before Finals Day. It starts at Doncaster with the Lincoln, and I am hoping to be riding Owen Burrows’ Mizaah. He was an incredibly easy winner at Chelmsford in a fair handicap when last seen and has had his winter break since then. I sat on him the other day and he might not just be quite ready in time. Still, we’ll see.
There’s also Andrew Balding’s Zwayyan though I’m not sure if he’ll want to using an apprentice so he can claim the weight allowance.
Failing that, I’m hoping Rampant Lion might sneak into the Lincoln, but he needs quite a few to come out in order to get a run so it’s more likely he’ll go in the Spring Mile consolation race. He’s been progressive this winter and would have his chance off a light weight.
I was riding work at Andrew’s this morning. He’s got loads of horses in now, so that’s good, and we were able to ride on the grass gallop today, which is also a positive. We’re starting to step up the work now and it’s time to roll on. Obviously, riding out before the season has started is a very exciting time where anything is possible, and we’re all really excited about the year ahead. Last year’s two-year-olds seem a lot stronger and have hopefully trained on.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2019
For me, as I say, I’m very excited for 2019. I’ve had probably my best start to a year. I already have plenty of winners behind me, so I’m not trying to chase from scratch having been riding abroad as I have in recent years. The winter has also enabled me to make a few extra connections, where I’ve ridden for people for the first time, and hopefully that will bode well for the coming months.
I’ve got a few numerical targets in terms of number of winners but my main aim is to ride in more Group races and get a few more Group race winners. Horseplay was a Group 2 winner for me last year, and Tip Two Win ran that super race to be second in the 2000 Guineas. Hopefully I’ll keep the ride on him this season: he’s strengthened up since last year, where his form maybe tapered a little after being on the go pretty much all winter; and I hope he’ll be a very good horse at around a mile.
Neil Allan, my agent, is doing a brilliant job for me and giving me lots of opportunities. Our job now is to try to get some quality mixed in with the number of rides, which is tricky when so many owners use retained riders. Still, I’ll keep my head down, carry on doing my best and riding as many winners as I can, and we’ll see what happens after that.
One of the features of the early part of the turf season are two-year-old races. Clearly when I’m on a baby, especially on its first racecourse visit, I do things a little differently from when I’m riding an older handicapper. It’s so important to give a juvenile a good experience of racing; it would be mainly hands and heels, with one or two flicks behind the saddle if you’ve a chance to win the race. It’s all about that positive experience first time out and making sure they progress from it. Unfortunately, you see some of these two-year-olds, they get a hard race first time and that’s it, it turns them sour to the game.
I think most trainers are keen for their babies to have a good experience and to progress from that. When I’m riding in a two-year-old race, I want to get my lad switched off on the way to the start; normally if there’s a horse that’s run before, the first-timers will follow that one down to post. I was always told to tell the colts and ask the fillies: what I mean by that is that the boys perhaps need to know who’s boss a bit more, whereas I’d let a filly lead me as long as she wasn’t being too errant.
Then we hope for a quiet time going into the stalls and an even break. After that, I’ll try to get my lad settled in amongst horses and try to get him to finish off his race so that he’s learned something from it.
As you can imagine, there’s a lot that can go wrong for a young horse and plenty of them step forward a ton from first to second run. A horse can get worked up on the way to the start, or can miss the break, or can pull too hard and use its energy; but next time out there’s a good chance it will have learned from that experience.
For all of the above, often a two-year-old just jumps and runs until its petrol gauge hits zero. But the ones that do it all very professionally that first day, you know you’ve probably got a classy horse in those cases.
My Rides This Weekend
Changing tack, I’m back in the saddle on Friday and have a few promising rides between then and Monday. I’m on Tony Carroll’s Prominna at Lingfield over five furlongs. He’s got a nice inside draw and they’ll hopefully go a good lick before coming back to him. Tony’s putting cheek pieces on for the first time which might just perk him up a little. He was second last time when he reared up as the stalls opened, so we’re looking to go one better if he breaks better and the race pans out for us.
Bequest runs at Lingfield on Saturday over a mile. She’s run a couple of nice races over six furlongs and could show up well over this longer trip. And then I’m away to Kempton for the evening meeting where Crossing The Line looks to have a fair chance. She’d been very consistent before trying to make all last time and, while it might be a hot little race, she goes there with solid prospects. I also ride Gabriel Laura who leapt forward from first to second start to be a close second over seven at the track; the extra furlong should suit and I hope she’ll go close.
I’m looking forward to Nice To Sea of Olly Murphy’s on Monday. He’s been pretty unlucky the last twice, one way and another, and hopefully it’ll be third time lucky for us this time.
That’s all for now – speak again in a couple of weeks.
– David Probert