Top jockey Aidan Coleman returns with his weekly news and views
We're already fighting for second again:
Many people talk about the Jumps season starting in earnest with the Showcase meeting at Cheltenham, but, for me, it started five months ago!
I’ve got 58 winners on the board, which is about on a par with where I’ve been the last couple of years. Dickie Johnson is way out in front, around 30 winners clear, and he’s already the champion elect in my book.
He wins barring any injuries, and even if he was out for a month, he’d probably still win the Stobart Jumps Jockeys’ Championship. He’s the ultimate professional and the way he conducts himself on and off the racecourse is a lesson to any young jockey.
People say I’m unlucky to be riding in the same era as AP McCoy and Dickie, but you could also say it’s the best time to be riding. You want to pit yourself against the best and that’s what those two are.
Harry Skelton has made a great start to the year, with his brother, Dan, firing out the winners, and Sammy Twiston-Davies and Noel Fehily are also up there, so between us we’ll be fighting out for second spot and chasing Dickie home.
Joseph O'Brien will soon be challenging for Irish title:
As for the trainers’ championship, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls will be the favourites, but don’t rule out Colin Tizzard, who threatened last year. As for Jonjo O’Neill, who I ride mainly for, there isn’t that strength in depth with the older horses but he has a lot of young horses coming through, which is exciting. They might not be competing for the big Saturday races for a year or two, but there’s lots to look forward to.
Over in Ireland, we saw Gordon Elliott giving Willie Mullins a real run for his money in the trainers’ championship there, and I don’t think it will be long before we see Joseph O’Brien stake his claim. He won the Galway Hurdle and looks to have a string strong on quality and quantity. It might not be this year, but it’s only a matter of time.
Citizen and Intention my best rides:
I think my best chances of a winner this weekend lie at Aintree on Sunday Global Citizen is a horse we like. He won his bumper pretty easily at Warwick and has been schooling well. It’s difficult to know how good he is, but he’s impressed in everything he’s done so far. He runs in the Bet £10 Get £20 At 188Bet Maiden Hurdle.
The other one I’m going to pick out is Third Intention, who runs in the 188Bet Monet's Garden Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase.
He seems to run well fresh as we saw when he won this last year. This looks like being an equally competitive renewal, but you have to respect last year’s form and I think he’ll give me a really good ride.
I have got two rides at Cheltenham on Saturday. Eastlake runs in the Randox Health Handicap Chase. He’s won over the course and over this trip and you can see his form is a bit in and out, so he’s hard to predict, but Jonjo’s horses are running well and if he’s on a going day, he’d have a chance.
Quarenta runs in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Series Qualifier). I won on him at Warwick last time and he did it well. This is a step up in class but that doesn’t mean he’s not up to it and he’s got a light weight.
Sandown Champions Day?:
Finally, I did manage to get the odd glimpse of QIPCO British Champions Day and was left very impressed by Cracksman. The thought of him and Enable possibly taking on Winx next summer is a mouthwatering one, and I love the way they campaign Winx.
They’re not afraid to run her and she seems to be running every other Saturday. Champions Day is firmly embedded in the Flat calendar now, and those early knockers have gone quiet now – you’d have to say it’s a real success.
I wonder whether we can do something similar for the Jumps season. We obviously have Cheltenham, Aintree and then Punchestown which give the season a real climax and then we have the Jumps finale at Sandown. But I wonder whether Sandown could build on its fixture and see if they can stage an even better quality card and lay on more events off the track as well, like Ascot apparently do. I think the fixture works well as it is, but has real potential to be even bigger.