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Back At It With Zac!

Back at the blog after the festive ‘Holidays’…. Although there wasn't a day off in sight!

Just before Christmas had even popped into my thoughts I had 3 rides at Larkhill on 19th December. The conditions at this time of year at Larkhill are normally very cold, windy and likely a dusting of snow. But for some reason this time we had 14 degrees of still weather which all sounds lovely until you factor in the fog…it resembled the smog you’d find in London during the 1900s! The smog did ease a little each race and typically by the last race when I had long gone so had it!

My first ride of the day was a lovely big 5-year-old in division 1 of the bumper called OnTheRunAgain for Stuart Morris. We intended to jump off very handy and stay there as long as possible. He gallops all day and didn’t intend on making the race turn into a sprint! Sadly, he was extremely green and didn’t actually put his head down and gallop until the last half mile. That said he finished 6th, beaten 6 and a half lengths which isn’t too bad considering he lost 10 lengths at the start being babyish. The next challenge will be getting him over a fence!

My second ride, and what I expected to be my best chance of the day, was in division 2 of the bumper. The Tablet is a very handy 5-year-old Trans Island gelding, which myself and trainer Maurice Linehan have high hopes for. He’s schooled over fences and gallops like a bullet but we decided to go for a flat race to start with. I lined up at the start a few lengths down from James King expecting to take a nice lead, especially as my horse can be a tad gassy early on. Well, after 5 strides it was evident I couldn’t hold one side of my lad and ended up in the lead. Once we went a furlong or two we settled nicely in front and coming back towards home every time something to get near him, he just kept pulling away from them! He only won by a couple of lengths but he’s not the type to scoot clear. When you work him at home he goes a couple clear then just stays there to annoy the other horse! He is now looking for a new owner and entered at Goffs sale at the end of the month so hopefully he sells well.

On to my third and final ride of the day, a 4-year-old gelding by Ask called Don’t Ask Fits for Harriet Dickin. He’s done plenty of work and schooling so we expected him to show plenty which luckily he did! We jumped off just behind the leaders and they then made it to the front rank at the top of the hill with a mile to go but James King and Luke Scott pulled a little away from me soon after. Coming to the second last James and Luke are going hammer and tonges, sadly James hit the deck and left Luke about 10 clear of me down to the last. My lad just kept galloping and winged the last just getting beat at the line by 3 lengths. Definitely one to keep an eye on over 3 miles, he should make a right horse. I feel like I have to explain every inch of my three rides as no one knew what happened bar the last furlong of each race thanks to that darn fog!

Foggy Larkhill! Image kindly supplied by Hattie Austin Sport Photographer

Moving on to Christmas Day. Since I’ve been working in racing Christmas is just a day where you get to finish early, pop home eat to a little bit and rush back for evening stables, then you get to worry about how heavy you are for Boxing Day! Basically thats exactly what I did. I finished work early as we only rode one lot out. Then kicked on home which for me luckily is less than an hour away. Had a lovely lunch with Mum and Dad, stuck my head around the corner to say hi to my oldest friends Amber and Felix, then back to evening stables for 4pm. I wasn’t too fussed about Christmas but Boxing Day, different story. I was lucky enough to get the call up on Earl Of The Cotswolds in the last race at Kempton for Nigel (Twiston-Davies)!! Even better yet he had top weight… RESULT!

He went off favourite in a very competitive field but, if at his best, should justify favouritism. Orders were to sit second row one the rail and track the leader which we managed perfectly. We sat right behind Harry Cobden the whole way then when we asked the question turning in, nothing happened!! He was last to finish and very tiredly at that. When I ran the course before his race the ground was very hard work and sadly that ruined our chance. Oh well, a ride at Kempton on King George day still was fantastic!

2 days later, onto Chaddesly Corbett on the 28th. Now if you think Kemptons ground was soft, the ground here was bottomless. I had to get towed into the car park and somehow managed to get out without any incident. The lorries however were getting towed around by not one, not two, but 3 tractors! I wasn’t sure how the day would go for me as I wasn’t sure how my rides would cope with the ground. My first ride was The Big Fits for Harriet Dickin. We jumped off upsides in front and stayed there for a whole circuit in the young maiden, but sadly when push came to shove he couldn’t hack it and we pulled up down the back straight.

My second ride was Melekov for Claire Hart in the Mens Open. We jumped off handy and had a great time. He jumped and travelled so well for just over a circuit but then he just got taken off his feet on that ground and we pulled up. I was delighted as he hadn’t ever run over fences and is in one piece to go again, which given his track record of issues is great news.

My last ride of the day was Master Sam Bellamy for Chloe Box and all looked as if he cope with the ground. I had a plan to nurse him around and pick up a place in the older horse maiden but it did quite go to plan. He didn’t travel great and every time I tried to make ground we went nowhere. No joy there!

Then I shot off up to Horseheath on New Years Eve for 2 rides; Neumond for Stuart Morris and the lovely Cashmoll for James Ridley. Neumond loves quicker ground which was less than ideal but being in the first race at least we had the best of the ground. We set off in front but ended up sitting 3rd/4th going well enough. We stayed there until we turned into the back straight the final time and the quality of the race showed and they swallowed us whole! To put it politely the ground and competitiveness of the race were against us and as soon as it went wrong the old boy looked after himself.

Moving on to Cashmoll. All of us connected have a soft spot for this mare and I’m adamant she’s much better than a restricted horse. Thanks to Covid, she went into training for a short period under rules and she hated it. She ran once and came home needing a break to recover so I couldn’t wait to get back aboard now she’s back in form. She also needs better ground but she was screaming for a run and her fitness will only benefit for it. We jumped off in front and ballooned the first so much so we ended up losing a few places. We sat there until the majority of the field disappeared by the top of the hill. I thought we might pass one of the 3 in front of me, apart from Gina who looked like she travelled all the way to the second last! We finished 4th but ran well and she will come on nicely from the run. Roll one next time!

New Years Day and I’m off to Fakenham in the horsebox with Summit Like Herbie… no New Years celebrating for me! He was rightly fancied in the betting after his win last time out at Doncaster but anyone who knows Herbie, calling him quirky is an understatement! I jumped off second row and travelled like a demon most of the race, maybe a little too well for 3m5f. He hangs left which should suit Fakenham but all the fences are island ones meaning there's no running rail apart from on the bends. My right arm had a workout! We looked all the winner jumping 2 out but when push came to shove over the last he hung in behind Alex Chadwick's mount and ended up being beaten just over 2 lengths, rubbish!!

The Twiston-Davies camp had plenty of luck at Cheltenham though! Vienna Court defied a 12lb rise from the last win (also at Cheltenham) and won in style in a 2m 4f Grade 3! What a tough game mare she’s becoming. If you look at her owners Instagram/Twitter pages there’s some lovely interviews and videos of her; search James and Jean Potter.

I was supposed to be at Larkhill the day after Fakenham for 2 rides but sadly everyones New Years parties and fireworks meant they knocked themselves about in the stables and couldn’t run which was a shame, but looking at the positive side I managed to have a lie-in after a mental week! So much for the Christmas holidays!

Finally, Ampton comes around and I was due to have Chase Me in the veterans followed by the possibility of 2 in the young maiden for Harriet Dickin. Sadly the maidens didn't end up running so I now just had Chase Me in the veterans' race. Probably not a bad thing as normally I need oxygen after I ride him…hard work is an understatement! We set off to make it as usual and winged the first fence. Chase Me had visors on for the first time pointing and shortly after the first he pulled me clear down the hill as the 2 downhill fences were omitted. I was getting excited as I thought this might be the first time I’ve ridden him and not had to do all the work! Sadly we came to every other fence in the race and dropped anchor. I pulled him up with 5 to jump but hopefully we can sweeten him up for next time. Was hoping the journey to be worth it but that’s horse racing after all!

Give it until the next blog, I can see a lot more luck coming… I hope!

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