After a steady start to the season, it only went and got steadier! More of that in a minute but on to the good news first. The middle of January came along and Gina was back at it breaking more records. After smashing Polly Gundry's record and still counting, I went over to congratulate her and have a bit of dinner mid-week. Anyway I ended up chatting to Tom Ellis about coming to ride out some lots the next week and he agreed as they’ve got loads to ride out, then he offered me a trip to Sheriff Hutton to ride one called Pedley Wood as Gina was at the other meeting. Of course, I didn’t say no! Even got a free lift up in the lorry with Kim driving and Sam Davies-Thomas as backup trainer, or the B team as I called it! I also rode a lovely big horse in the 3 mile maiden for Stuart Morris - Lockdown Ludo. We jumped off mid-division and winged the first couple fences to end up sitting second most of the race. Had a lovely spin around with the only problem being the two bottom bends were a bit tight for such a big lad. We pulled up two out having just got a little tired, but very pleased and he will have learned a bundle. Actually, he went up to Sinnington and finished 3rd a couple of weeks later in torrential conditions!
Back to the B team, Sam had trouble with which pads to put on as I weighed out early and left the saddle in the back of the lorry, which madly looks like Harley Equestrian there's that much tack. Can forgive Sam for that in his old age! Luckily when he came into the paddock he had all the correct stuff on and off we went although not without incident. My lad spooked at some old jumps on the way to the start and the only thing that held me on was my fear seatbelt! But the fun doesn’t stop there as upon arrival at the start James King had been deposited off Fran and Charlie's lovely Diamond Boy debutant which was none the worse and James hopped back aboard and off we went. James, Meisha Micklewright and I lined up and led to the first. Miesha took a horrible fall bringing down the one behind her so James and I were left to drive the bus. Coming to the third fence in front of the crowd we had a joyous task of navigating the 2 loose horses which I can only compare to the Foinavon incident. James went left and I went right and the two loose ones jammed on in the middle, causing Alice Stevens to be gently deposited atop the fence! The loose one went out to another field and kept out of our way for the rest of the race and the race was on between us two. I missed at the third last gifting James about 4/5 lengths and he was still travelling readily. Jumping two out Pedley Wood started his turbo and reeling on James; we made it over the last to go away and win quite nicely! B team has been upgraded to A team! The journey home was very funny, well for Sam and me anyway. Poor Kim who’d done all the driving had the brunt of our jokes! Pedley Wood went to Cheltenham sales after racing and sold to Colin Tizzard for a nice sum of £75K! Not a bad day's work.
Moving on my luck soon went back to being rubbish rather quickly. I rode Haven’t Time in the first Hunter Chase of the year at Ludlow and things were going well. Jumped great and travelled nicely the whole way until I look across and myself and Gina are hammer and tong down to the last, which Gina made it over and I fell in spectacular fashion! Somehow both of us walked away, maybe slightly gingerly and with a bloody broken collarbone!! So that has written my riding off for a month. The good news is I have enough time to get back for Cheltenham Festival and have a couple of nice rides. One being Fantastikas in the four-miler. If he wins then I will finally have a winner for nine at Cheltenham! Also, I might get on whatever horse Gina doesn’t want to ride in the Foxhunters; not bad playing second jockey to her! Poor William Thirlby also got busted up at the last Ludlow meeting and broke his leg, too many injuries around at the moment!
I managed to make it to Cocklebarrow for a lovely day out and did a PPORA Instagram takeover. Plenty of runners and I’ve not seen so many people at a point meeting for a while. Thousands of them… luckily the beer tent was vast enough to keep up with them all! I didn’t miss any winners there but I did miss one at Larkhill the day before when Mark Grant's filly, Maid Of The Night, won the bumper. I was adamant she’d win a race on a more galloping track after I rode her at Banbury and it was too sharp for her. So at least I got that right. Hoping to be back for this weekend where I could be riding in the Walrus at Haydock, one of the biggest Hunter Chases of the season! Then on for a couple of rides at Chaddesley on Sunday. The worst thing about doing rehab in Oaksey House is the amount of graft they give you. I never want to see a watt bike again for the rest of my life! Also, they have a board in there with a list of best efforts for each test, I'll probably get a bit competitive and try and get my name on there!
Moving on, I had a fantastic day out with I Like To Move it at Cheltenham. Very big day for him running in the Betfair Hurdle; finally there will be a bit of pace in the race unlike his last couple of runs where he ended up leading just out of a trot. Sammy sat him in the box seat, on the rail behind the leader. They didn’t go particularly quick and he was quite keen early on. Turning in he made his move and then it was soon clear coming to the last that the race was between himself and Glory And Fortune, ridden by fellow ginger Stan Sheppard. ‘Rupert’ winged the last and Stan got in tight; by this point I’m running up the run in losing my voice screaming. He galloped through the line just being denied by a nose! Not bad for a 5yr old; what an exciting career he has ahead of him. He really is a gentleman. Quiet to ride and look after in the stable yard and he’s so polite when cantering, its like riding him via telepathy. You think it, he does it. Anyway finishing second in the most valuable handicap of the season was a pain, that short head was worth £50k in prize money! But it was great for my best mate Stan whose career is taking off, ever since I beat him twice around Woodford point-to-point in tight finishes he’s never looked back! Naturally, I dropped my boy home and tucked him into bed, making sure he’s A Ok then drove straight up to Ledbury to have a celebration with Stan. Making sure he paid for all the food/drinks after he broke my heart at Newbury!
All going well my return to ride test on Thursday goes well and they let me back...I need to get the practice in ready for an exciting festival!