Hopefully you all sang that like I did! Amazingly I’m nearing my 100th point-to-point winner...I’m surprised I made it to 10 let alone this far!
Cheltenham Festival time and the whole yard was a hive of activity. Unfortunately, we had no joy at Twistons but that still did not discount the brilliance of the whole week. Sadly I only ended up having the one ride which was in the Foxhunters on Fumet d'Oudairies, but just being there in front of thousands of tweed-clad folk is awesome. I think more pints of Guinness are drunk in those 4 days than hours I’m going to live in my entire life!
Anyway, Fumet didn’t really enjoy it as much as I did. He got very worked up in the preliminaries, so much so that when I made it into the paddock he had 2 handlers leading him around. Luckily Gina gave me a lead to the start on Dubai Quest, otherwise I’d have had no control! The plan was to ride him cold near the back of the pack and save our stamina to home. Despite this, he struggled with getting into the second half of the race and we pulled up after 4 out. Gina did well, finishing 4th with the Irish taking the first 3 positions annoyingly…maybe they should just move Cheltenham to Ireland!
I didn’t have much joy at Shelfield park, or Pearcey park seeing as Nick Pearce is clerk of the course! I finished 3rd on Chase Me in the mens open, although it was a much-improved run. Unfortunately, A Book Of Intrigue refused to race again in the restricted.
On to glorious Garthorpe Sunday and Bad Bad Leeroy Brown ran a blinder to finish 2nd behind one of pointing’s greats, Caryto Des Brosses. He is, in my opinion, one of the best open horses in the country and his jockey Dale peters ain’t too shabby either! Ontherunagain finished 3rd in the three-mile maiden for Stuart Morris; he will improve with time.
Saving the best till last, I was called up to ride Intrepide Sud for Thomas and Gina in the young maiden. Unfortunately, there were three only 3 runners but with the other two being trained by Charlie Poste & Bradley Gibbs it wasn’t the simplest of tasks. I bounced out upsides James King with Bradley in tow. By the second fence we went clear and never saw another rival. Sadly the others didn’t complete but you can’t discount my horse for that, he jumped, travelled and did everything well. All you can ask of a horse is to win surely?!
Off to Exeter for 2 rides next. Supreme Commander for Sid Hosie in the Hunter Chase that had run in Ireland and finished second to a horse at Nigel's that I look after, We’ve All Been Caught, that was £210k top lot at Cheltenham. Sadly Supreme Commander pulled up at the bottom of the home straight; a holiday is needed I’d say but jumped well. Incredibly my ride in the point-to-point bumper was for the mighty Nicky Henderson! Park Hill Dancer had been bought by Middleham Park racing syndicate after his win around Barbury and went off the 11/10 favourite. I was very confident but didn’t think it would unfold the way it did. We went a nice even gallop from start to finish and annihilated the field by 17 lengths without breaking a sweat! Not bad considering Mr. Henderson said he’s so slow at home he can’t even lead the babies!
Siddington was my next port of call to ride the Max Cromley trained Call His Bluff. Only two went to post and I was hoping I would get the better of Fred Henderson’s Frission Collonges….especially as they call it Vache at home which translates to ‘Cow’! Bluffy likes to take his time and settles well but only has about a furlong in him off the bridle so I took a lead off Fred. Jumping what was the first after a circuit I was still going well when we had a whoopsie on the landing side slithering nearly to a halt; my feet actually touched above the saddle! Amazingly we kept the partnership but had lost a good eight lengths and it wasn’t easy to make up the deficit. Jumping the last I just didn’t have the speed to catch our contender and finished 2nd, beaten a length and a half. It would have been really nice to ride a winner for Max on my first ride for him so it was a shame!
Luckily Maisemore was the next day which is one of my favourite tracks and I had the joy of partnering one of my all-time favourites Ballyboker Breeze in the hunt members. As with the previous two renewals, we set a lovely pace from the front and never saw another rival! He’s just class, not particularly bold in the jumping department but WOW he can shift! We never came out of 2nd gear! It was slightly sad in another respect though as he retired afterwards, 14 years young and out at the top! Credit to Jo Priest who kept him on top order and his record pointing shows that. 11 runs, six wins and five 2nds, possibly the best two and a half mile pointer in the country, and could still do it over 3 miles! No wonder Jo shed a tear in the winners' enclosure.
Next, I rode Just Four Fame in the young maiden for David Dennis. A slightly quirky Fame and Glory five-year-old but he’s done plenty and it showed. His first run ever and it wasn’t without incident. We lost James King at the first, Huw Edwards turning in and Luke Scott with the race at his mercy after the last due to tack issues! Bradley Gibbs won the race and we were 17 lengths adrift but a promising run, and we learned that he definitely needs all of 3 miles.
Then I rode an ex-Twiston horse in the older maiden to finish 3rd. Gamalou d’Alene is a lovely looking grey who runs with a single cheek piece on thanks to a sarcoid on his face! Finally, I rode a bumper horse for David Dennis to finish 9th but was bang there halfway down the back. Being a Westerner I'd say a little more cut in the ground is needed.
Following Maisemore, I rode one for Nigel at Warwick called Silver Ginge. First-time wearing blinkers and a last chance saloon in the two and a half maiden hurdle. We bounced out and made all, only tiring after three out. He ran well but walked over the line. Sadly he only had one more run and then got retired, but it was nice to ride in the Ginge Army colours! I also rode Full Trottle in the Hunter Chase. We couldn’t emulate our Ludlow result from four years ago and pulled up after the hill into the back straight. The old boy will now have a well-earned retirement! Seem to be retiring a lot of horses at the moment!
On to Bitterly for three rides...sadly I ended up with only two! Master Sunrise ran in the conditions and I had a great spin round, waiting to pounce after the third last. Unfortunately, Huw Edwards flew up the straight and I couldn't catch him, finishing 22 lengths behind.
On to the mixed open on a horse I picked up as a spare from Tommie O’Brien, called Dee Lane. I thought having run plenty over hurdles and being a maiden he’d be ok but I didn’t realise they were aiming for the mixed open because it’s 2m4f. I’d been informed that he jumped well so wasn’t worried. He was fresh to get on and once the race started, going down to the first fence he tried to wipe out James King upsides me, then went to refuse the other way, and I got deposited on the takeoff side! This left Thomas Murray to maul me up the front of the fence knocking me out for a good two minutes. Bummer that’s another two weeks off and trips to Oaksey house! Luckily Nicky Sheppard was around to kindly take me to Hereford hospital for a CT scan which came back all clear…all clear as in there wasn’t anything in there!!
I was just gutted to be sidelined at this stage as I’m on the 97 winner mark and only 7 rides off having 600 pointing! I also missed my Foxhunters ride at Aintree for Dr. Newland which was gutting. Funnily enough, I told Tommie O’Brien to ring up for the ride even after he gave me the fall that crocked me. Even worse they fell at the canal turn… a fall for a fall!
Oh well, I’ll be back on my birthday for Easter weekend ready to bang some winners in! Catch up soon!