My second blog of the new year, and hopefully a few more interesting horses to tell you about. Let's start at the start...
Two Saturdays ago I had three rides for Colin Tizzard, the pick of which might turn out to be Lillington. The son of Westerner was having his first try in handicap company and beat all bar the winner there. It shouldn't be too long before he goes one better. A horse with a similar name, Cucklington, made his debut over fences the same day and ran only all right. He's back on Saturday in a similar race at Taunton, with a nice racing weight, and should come on plenty for that first experience of the big obstacles.
The following day I managed to snare another winner for Mr Tizzard. Bears Rails is a nice horse, although he has a few ideas of his own maybe! With blinkers on for essentially the first time (ignoring the void race he ran in on Boxing Day), I gave him a forward ride around Fontwell - which would have been tight enough for him - and he jumped like a pro, keeping on well in the end. He's still relatively young at seven, and has already won three chases, so could have a bit more to come later in the season.
Reilly's Minor was a horse I thought might be worth following, and I wouldn't give up on him just yet. He was stepping up a full three-quarters of a mile at Catterick and just didn't seem to get home. If dropping back in trip to around 2m6f ideally on a left-handed course, he can get back on the winning track.
More recently, I notched another winner for the very lucky Anthony Honeyball Racing Club with Royal Salute. Those enthusiastic owners have enjoyed eight winners from 21 runners this season, with another nine places! This lad is a thorough stayer and he put that to good use over three and a quarter miles of Plumpton's soft turf on Monday. He won going away in the end, and he only does as little as he can get away with. As a result he may still be half a stride ahead of the handicapper, and all he does is stays. That was his third win since April last year.
Another who may have gone a couple of furlongs too far was Coole Cody, who probably also bumped into one in Harry Fry's Over To Sam. Cody will hopefully drop back to around two and a half miles and is capable of winning a novice event somewhere before facing his handicap mark.
Although I was only fourth on him, I was quite taken with As De Fer yesterday. He is slow enough but stays very well. I tried to make it but couldn't lay up with a pace that was too fast but, having got outpaced, Anthony's horse was closing again at the finish. He could go close over a trip with a bit of soft ground.
Finally, Monsieur Co was obviously lucky to win, Harry Fry's horse coming down at the last with the race at his mercy. But our lad hasn't been in that long and should improve a fair bit for the run. Saying that, he still made quite hard work of this.
As well as my boss, Paul Nicholls, I've been lucky enough to have ridden a fair bit for Colin Tizzard in recent weeks. He's got some serious horses in the yard this season and is a very easy-going man to work for.
I ride Robinsfirth for him this afternoon in a hot novices' handicap chase. An eight year old son of Flemensfirth (how did you guess?), he's not had much racing and this will be only his eighth race. He's well regarded at home and should run very well if putting in a clear round, with the step up in trip expected to suit.
Colin runs his 'talking horse', Alary, in the Peter Marsh on Saturday, and I think it's nuts that the French import is so short for the race. Mind you, he needs to be winning that if he's to justify a pretty skinny price for the Gold Cup!
I'm due to ride Virak, who has a right chance, that race. I'll probably be handy, and he was second in this race last year off a seven pound higher mark. A bit of cut is ideal, which he should get, and I'm really looking forward to the ride.
I also ride Irving in the Stan James Champion Hurdle Trial. If he can repeat his Fighting Fifth win he'd almost be the one to beat, but he was disappointing twice before that so definitely needs to put his best foot forward again.
I'm up to 41 winners in the Conditional Jockeys' Championship race now. Jamie Bargary has 27, the same as Dave Noonan, and they are sharing second spot. With more than three months left in the season, I'm not counting my chickens just yet. We all know that you're only ever one tumble away from a long layoff, so we'll keep on pushing.
I've now only got two winners left on my claim, with a career total of 73, so with luck by the time I speak to you next I'll have ridden it out. I guess that's when the hard work really starts!