Happy New Year everyone! I hope you've all gorged yourselves on turkey and the trimmings while us jockeys have been on the usual diet of gruel and water!
Quite a lot has been happening since my last blog, what with it being a busier time over the festive period with lots of rides to share around. Saying that, I've only had four for the boss, but it's been a case of quality over quantity there.
One of the rides for Mr Nicholls was on the smart hurdler, Mr Mix. He won the Pertemps Qualifier on Boxing Day at Wincanton (one of the lads has dubbed it 'Wincobden' (!), as I've ridden 16 winners from 36 rides there) off a mark of 139. He probably did it a little better than the winning margin of three-quarters of a length suggests: having got hampered at the top of the hill, I had a lovely run down the inner and when he hit the front he just dossed a bit. That may be just as well as it could keep him a stride ahead of the handicapper with luck, and I'd be hopeful there's a bit more in the tank. He's a very nice horse who is now qualified for the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.
If Mr Mix was the Boxing Day high I didn't have to wait long to be brought back down to earth with a bump. 35 minutes later I rode a mare called Antarctica de Thaix. She'd been left in the lead at the third fence, and was cantering a distance clear before just crumpling on landing at the third last, giving me no chance. I felt very sorry for the owners, but they were quite calm and understanding.
There was still time on the same day to get stuck in a ditch when a melee ensued in a handicap chase which had to be declared void when none of the horses managed to complete; and to ride a promising sort in the closing bumper. Johanos was his name, and I think he will win a novice hurdle in due course. He's a big scopy type who definitely wants more of a trip, and could be one to look out for at a price given his trainer, Nigel Hawke, isn't the most high profile handler.
Sadly, I was on the deck again the next day, as Richard Woollacott's Millanisi Boy was just backing out of it having run a fair race to that point in a decent three mile handicap hurdle. He's likely to go novice chasing now, and might be worth a second glance if the ground comes up heavy.
My last winner of 2016 was for Warren Greatrex. Warren has been looking around for 'best available' after both of his main stable jockeys, Harry Bannister and Gavin Sheehan, have suffered fractures. On this occasion, I rode Reilly's Minor in a Taunton handicap. He'll defintiely stay further and could be ten pounds better when going left-handed (hangs notably left). He runs in the Cole Harden colours, and should win again now he's got his head in front.
My last ride of the old year was on board Lucy Wadham's Game On. He is another big scopy type, by Gamut, and looks capable of going close in a novice hurdle.
Perhaps the nicest horse I've ridden since my last blog is Robinsfirth, who did it really well in a fair beginners' chase on New Year's Day. He's a lovely jumper, travelled like a dream, and stayed on very well. He'd already been given a mark of 135 ahead of this effort and might be a candidate for the novices' handicap chase at the Festival, depending on his revised rating.
He's a big unit - at least 17'2 - and is pretty unexposed after two years off the track. He is a very nice prospect and definitely one for your Geegeez Tracker.
Earlier in the afternoon, I finished second on Michael Blake's Coole Cody. He is a free going type and he travelled really well. I thought I was going to give the winner a run for his money but he just got a little outpaced in the last furlong. He might pay for this performance with the handicapper but, for five grand, the owners look to have bagged themselves a bargain.
In the conditional jockeys' title race, I'm now on 38 winners. Dave Noonan is on 26, Jamie Bargary 25, and Harry Bannister 22.
Here's to more good winners for all of us in 2017.
- Harry Cobden