I was a guest of Chepstow Racecourse at the BBC Wales Sports Awards last night. It was an honour to be able to present the BBC Wales Young Sportsman of the Year Award to James Bowen, winner of last year’s Coral Welsh Grand National at the age of just 16.
I know the Bowen family well, when I was starting out and riding in point to points as a 17 year old they gave me lots of rides. The family eats, sleeps and breathes horses, which has helped James to ride at such a high standard at such a young age. To mix it with the seasoned professionals at 16 and 17 is impressive, I don’t think I was as professional at his age! Like James, I knew at a young age that this was what I wanted to do, it’s good to have a dream as a youngster and James and I are lucky to be able to make a living doing what we love.
I was really pleased with the mare La Bague Au Roi winning the Grade 2 Ladbrokes Chase at Newbury last Friday. I’d hoped she’d run well against the very good opposition, and she was very impressive. She’s a tall horse who has started to fill out into her lanky frame over the last couple of years and chasing has been the making of her. She jumped well from the front and the others couldn’t get into the race. I don’t know where she’ll go next but with her ability, and a mare’s weight allowance, she’ll be frightening off the competition wherever she goes.
Thomas Patrick was disappointing in the Ladbrokes Trophy as we thought everything was in our favour. He was never really going for some reason, he seemed fine afterwards and since, so hopefully we’ll see him back to form next time. He’s a better horse than you saw on Saturday.
I’ve been putting the miles in this week, with successful visits to Carlisle and Musselburgh. I picked up a valuable win in a Mares Hurdle series final at Carlisle on Hidden Dilemma on Monday. On Tuesday Philip Hobbs sent two to Musselburgh for owner Martin St Quinton. The owner is aiming to have had a winner at all UK tracks, and Musselburgh was one of the four tracks missing from his collection, so it was satisfying to be able to give him a double!
With the current wet weather it is looking less likely that Rock The Kasbah will run at Aintree in the Becher Chase on Saturday, so at this stage it is more likely that I will be at Sandown to ride Lalor in the randoxhealth.com Henry VIII Novices' Chase. He’s one of the most exciting youngsters around and Kayley Woollacott reports that he’s done well since his impressive chasing debut at Cheltenham. It’s still a long time to the Cheltenham Festival but the Arkle is shaping up to be one of the highlights with Kalashnikov and Mengli Khan also looking very impressive already this season.
It'll be a case of finding out for definite whether I’m riding at Aintree or Sandown, and then Dave Roberts trying to get me a full book of rides around the big one. I’ll be at Wincanton on Thursday riding for Philip Hobbs and Tom Lacey and I’ve currently got options at Sandown or Exeter on Friday.