Once again this week we have been busy with plenty of runners and the horses continue to be in good form.
Despite wanting to pull Noel’s arms out of his sockets for much of the race, I thought Ochos Rios ran well to finish 2nd behind a very good one of Philip Hobbs’ (Defi Du Seuil) at Ffos Las last Saturday. He might have one more run before a break but we will take our time with him, he just needs to learn his trade for the time being.
We were delighted to be in the winners’ enclosure at Worcester on Wednesday with Ballydague Lady. The prize money was excellent which my Racing Club were delighted about, and she tends to run well first time out. That win also means she qualifies for a £50,000 race at Haydock in March through the Challenger Series, and it’s fantastic that there is recognised programme for horses such as her to follow.
Also on Wednesday, Earls Fort stayed on well to finish a close 2nd at Fontwell and we could well send him to Chepstow on Tuesday for a quick re-appearance. He doesn’t like to be overcrowded in his races so we will look for a clearer run next time and hopefully he will be winning soon.
Looking ahead now, Cheltenham has always been a lucky course for me so I can’t wait to get back there this weekend for the Showcase Meeting.
I was just a 19-year-old boy when I made my first visit to Prestbury Park as a jockey and it was an amazing debut; I managed to win at my first attempt on a horse called Experimental for John Harris. You can only imagine how I felt as a young lad having come over for the day from Ireland and it has a been a special place for me ever since.
It is the Wembley of our sport and it has been even more important to me during my training career with the exploits of Midnight Chase putting the yard on the map. He absolutely loved it around there, picking up a number of wins, but his Argento Chase success over Tidal Bay was a particularly special day, as were his two runs in the Gold Cup.
The Festival is of course the biggest show in racing and it was hugely satisfying when The Druids Nephew claimed the handicap chase in 2015. It had been our plan all season long, which made it all the better, and to see him walk back into a packed winners’ enclosure was something I will never forget.
Hopefully we will have more days like that to come!
Moving on to this weekend, we have a good batch of runners for Cheltenham over the next couple of days and fingers crossed for some strong performances.
Pinkie Brown was very good first time out around Towcester. The Paul Nicholls horse (Marracudja) is likely to be tough to beat in the 2m novices’ chase on Friday, but our lad is getting weight and if he jumps and travels as well as he did on debut, we are hopeful he can make his presence felt.
We run two in the amateurs’ handicap chase on Friday and you wouldn’t be surprised if both were in the shake-up. Velator has been 2nd on both previous starts at Cheltenham, he ran well last time out at Warwick and in Sam Waley-Cohen, we have a jockey who has had plenty of success at the track. As for Fingerontheswitch, he should improve for the step up in trip and we have Barry O’Neill, who won on him during his P2P days, coming over from Ireland to take the ride which is another bonus.
Shantou Village was never seriously considered for the 3m race on Friday so instead he goes on Saturday over 2m3f on his 2nd outing over fences. The way he jumped out of Noel’s hands last time out at Fontwell means he might be better off going a gear quicker, and he certainly isn’t short of speed so this race should suit him well at this stage of the season.
Fox Norton is another horse with form around Cheltenham, indeed he was 3rd in the Arkle and then won there on his last start in April, and is in great form ahead of his run in the handicap chase over 2m on Saturday. He has had a lovely summer break and you would be hopeful he could run another big race. If he does go well, Fox Norton could book himself a return to Cheltenham for the Shloer Chase next month.
We could also run Minella Definitely in the handicap chase on Saturday, provided he gets in, and it’s a possibility he could be going to the sales after this race. Cheltenham always look after their owners and it will be a great day out for connections of this horse, who has won five races, to have a runner at Prestbury Park.
Lastly, The Young Master is one that won’t run at Cheltenham this weekend with the ground too quick for him, so we will look for another opportunity to get his season underway.