Hopefully Crack up to Imperial challenge
6 March 2015
There’s been a lot of talk recently about how much the Cheltenham Festival dominates the Jumps season. Any promotion of the sport is fantastic, and the spotlight will be well and truly on ours next week.
Personally speaking, I don’t get too wrapped up in all the build-up. You never know when you might get struck with a ban or injury, and I only really start to get in to the zone when I arrive at the course on the Tuesday.
I know the Flat season has many flagship festivals, but it doesn’t bother me that the format isn’t reflected over jumps. I’m lucky in that Venetia (Williams) doesn’t wrap her horses up in cotton wool which means we are normally in action on nearly all the Saturdays and the big midweek meetings, and we see those fixtures as just as important as Cheltenham.
I read Willie Mullins’ comments on how prize-money hasn’t really increased at the Festival and the graded races especially need a boost. Of course, as a jockey, I want to see more prize-money, but the prestige of the fixture means the Festival will always have full fields.
I’d prefer to see prize-money being injected from the bottom up. The top owners, trainer and jockeys can look after themselves, but it’s the grass roots and mid-level racing which needs investing in, otherwise the sport will struggle.
As I inferred earlier, some fixtures can get overlooked in the build-up to Cheltenham and a prime example could be Saturday’s fixture at Saturday, when I have rides in £70,000 and £60,000 races.
The feature is the William Hill Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle, in which I ride Thistlecrack for Colin Tizzard and owners John and Heather Snook. I thoroughly enjoy riding for the Snooks, who have been really good to me over the years. It would be amazing to win a big prize like this for them.
Ruby Walsh was on Thistlecrack last time and they flew past me and Otago Trail at Ascot, showing a great turn of foot. He is unexposed and a real unknown quantity, but that also means he lacks the experience of a big field, competitive handicap such as this. It’s a difficult race to win, but I’m very happy to be on him.
I am also on Buckhorn Timothy for Colin in the EBF William Hill Novices´ Handicap Hurdle Final. Similar to Thistlecrack, he is pretty unexposed like a lot of these, having started his hurdle career a year ago. It looks like one of the most competitive handicap hurdles of the year, so I can’t be confident but again am delighted to pick up what looks a nice ride.
Saroque runs in the extended three-mile handicap chase and, prior to his last run, was first and second on his two runs at Sandown. However, he didn’t really run his race at the track last month. He wasn’t able to dominate and make the running which he enjoys. If he can get to the lead then he could run a big race.
My best chance could be my last. Out Of The Mist runs in the Listed mares’ bumper for Emma Lavelle. We really like this mare and I rode her when she made a winning debut at Doncaster in November. She was very impressive that day and then made a quick reappearance – possibly too quick in hindsight – in a Listed race at Huntingdon. The aim was to get some black type which didn’t quite happen as she came fifth.
She then returned to Doncaster where she won another bumper with a penalty. We expect her to run a big race.