I was pleased to ride my 150th winner of the season at Newbury today, on Tidal Flow for Philip Hobbs. I’ve only once before ridden 150 winners before Christmas, so it must be a good year!
A few seasons back, 100 winners in a season was my aim, and as the winners became more regular I aimed for 100 winners before Christmas. Three years ago I got to 150 in December, but for the last two years it has taken until February so it’s great to get this big milestone ticked off so early.
I also rode my Chepstow winner Drinks Interval at Newbury. She went off 2/1 favourite, but was beaten by Jessie Harrington’s Magic of Light in the listed mares chase. In the end she was beaten by a better horse, but it was still a good run – the ground was much softer than when she won at Chepstow, and she would be better on quicker ground.
After racing we had a Professional Jockeys Association quarterly meeting. I’ve been the Jump President since AP McCoy retired, and there are about 12 jockeys on the board. It’s a chance for all jockeys to be involved in, and updated about, the things that affect us like riding fees, rule changes etc.
I’ve got an unexpected day off on Thursday because I picked up a two day ban at Fakenham the other day. I drifted into the runner up and was judged to have affected the finishing order. My horse was demoted and I was banned for two days.
I was due to miss New Year’s Day, but because it was a minor offence I was able to choose which day I missed and so opted for Thursday. There’s too much good racing on New Year’s Day! I’m disappointed to miss two days riding, as I think I won fair and square. However my children have broken up for the Christmas holidays and they were delighted when I told them I had a day off! We'll spend the day with the ponies.
This Saturday night it’s the Lesters, the annual jockeys awards, which is always a good way of catching up with everyone before Christmas. I've been nominated for the Jump Jockey of the Year and Jump Jockey Special Recognition.
I’m really looking forward to Boxing Day at Kempton, when I ride Native River in the King George. I spoke to Colin Tizzard about him today as he also trains Drinks Interval. He said that the horse is very well. They’re saying the ground at Kempton might be good to soft. It would suit Native River best if there was a bit more rain, he’s a strong stayer and that would blunt the speed of the quicker horses.
I think he’s got a good strong chance though, despite the quality of the opposition. There aren’t many options for the top staying chasers, which is why all the best horses are likely to turn up including another Gold Cup winner in Coneygree, previous King George winners Might Bite and Thistlecrack, our Haydock conqueror Bristol De Mai and the talking horse from the north Waiting Patiently. It’s going to be a great race.
I also hope to ride the Warren Greatrex mare La Bague Au Roi at Kempton in the Grade 1 3 mile novice chase. This will be the furthest she’s run over fences, but she won over the trip at Kempton over hurdles, so I expect her to stay well. She’s already beaten the boys twice, and she has a mares allowance again. She’s very exciting.
I don’t know yet what my plans are for Coral Welsh Grand National day. It will depend on what Philip Hobbs’ plans are. There’s a possibility I’ll be on Looksnowtlikebrian for Tim Vaughan, I know the owners are very keen to run and this horse will like the ground, he’s won on the track and I think he’ll stay, so he ticks a lot of the boxes. Once again it'll be a very competitive race.