Wow. Has it really been four weeks since I last wrote? Time flies...
It's actually been a fairly quiet month, but I've still managed to put another five wins on the board. They were kicked off by The Geegeez Geegee for, as the name suggests, a syndicate created out of visitors to this website!
It was really great to ride a winner in the geegeez colours and with the geegeez logos on, too. Geegee jumped class that day and was always going to win. He just dossed a little on the run in, giving a hint to his moody side. That less cooperative part of his game was in full evidence when he didn't go a yard for me back at Fontwell a fortnight later.
I knew my fate pretty early, and no amount of pushing and shoving was going to change his mind. He's probably going to be best fresh so might be interesting again after a little break.
Zarkandar is one of the yard favourites at Paul's, and I was lucky enough to get the leg up in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock. He was actually rated 168 in his prime and, though now on a mark of just 147, he's still showing plenty of zest. The handicapper raised him four to 151 for that, and he's headed to the Stayers' Hurdle next. With Noel Fehily booked to ride Unowhatimeanharry, there's a chance I'll keep the ride in the Stayers', which would be a fantastic opportunity. He's going well at home and might surprise a few people with a big effort.
Things stepped up a notch for me last Saturday with a nice double at Newbury, the first leg of which was Just A Par. The old boy stuck it out well to win the veterans' handicap chase, and was well on top at the line. I think he's going to the sales now and will be offered with an entry to run in the Grand National. He's gone up six pounds for the win last week but, because the National weights were already published, he can still run at Aintree off 146, so might be nicely handicapped! All he does is jumps and stays.
Then, in the last race on the card, I managed to break my bumper hoodoo on Anthony Honeyball's Sam Brown. I say hoodoo because this was my first National Hunt Flat winner, at the 26th time of asking! Sam is quite highly rated now - I think his RPR would be 130 if he was in the Champion Bumper. They went a good gallop and it rode like a good bumper. He repelled three separate challenges through the race, and it was more probably a fair bit more impressive than it looked.
The Sam Brown form has been franked in the last couple of days by Lalor and Daylami Kirk, who ran 1-2 on Thursday at Wincanton. Lalor was second to Sam Brown when Sam won his debut, and Daylami Kirk was well back that day. I rode him both times. I'd say he's a nice novice hurdle prospect for next season, and that was a good step forward this week.
Coole Cody got his head in front at the fifth time of asking. He's a very nice horse that was only beaten three lengths by Neon Wolf on his second start. He needs to settle better and if he does, could be a smart novice chaser next season. He'll probably also improve for better ground. He's definitely one to keep on the right side.
I've got four rides at Hereford this afternoon. My best chance might be Pearls Legend (4.00). He was fifth in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham last March, and has dropped eight pounds since then. He ran better last time on ground he'd have hated, finishing third, but still got dropped three pounds. Now on 130, I can either make it or take a lead, and if we go quick that will suit me fine.
Castarnie (1.40) is a little in and out. He needs to jump better than he has been and, if he does, he's got a squeak.
Shinooki (2.15) looks high enough in the handicap just now but he'll like conditions, so if he brings his Fakenham form another win is not out of the question.
Similar comments apply to Muffins For Tea (4.35). He's not obviously well weighted, but has a bit of a chance having run well here in a novice hurdle two back.
I'm down to ride Allchilledout at Chepstow on Monday. He hated the ground the last day and the track would have been sharp enough, but he's got good form round Chepstow, and should run his race.
Then it's Cheltenham. I have a few possibles though I won't know final running plans until nearer the time. Some might not get in and some might be ridden by other people! But this is how it looks at the moment.
I have one ride on Tuesday, in the Ultima Handicap Chase. I'm on a horse called Viconte Du Noyer, who won over a quarter mile further here at the BetVictor (Open) meeting. Ignore his last run, where he put two feet in a ditch in the Welsh National. He's actually only three pounds higher than his November win here, so has some sort of chance.
I can also pass on a good word for Romain de Senam. He galloped well the other day, and goes to the Novices' Handicap Chase (closing race on day one) in great fettle.
On Thursday, I'm scheduled to ride Mr Mix in the Pertemps. In truth, he's probably going to struggle a bit in this rarefied company, but he's unexposed at the trip and we're hoping that brings about some improvement.
Later that afternoon, with luck I'll get another chance on Zarkandar. The Stayers' is obviously a very hot race but, as I said earlier, I quietly fancy him to run into the first four or five.
Brio Conti is entered for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' race on Friday. He has a hell of a chance if he scrapes him, but that looks unlikely at this stage, sadly. I'd be hopeful of picking up a ride though, fingers crossed..
I'm up to 48 winners now for the season, closing in a maiden 50. That would be amazing but I'm certainly not counting my chickens. Dave Noonan is up to 30 now, and my closest rival, with Jamie Bargary on 29. It would be amazing if I could get a winner this weekend and then make 50 at Cheltenham next week, but that's probably a pretty wild dream! We'll keep kicking and hope to get those two I'm chasing before too long.
Until next time, I wish you the best of luck at Cheltenham next week, and let's hope all goes safely and well...