The groundstaff at Chepstow deserve plenty of praise for the ground they provided us with last weekend for the Jump Season Opener meeting. The lack of rain in recent months has been a real cause for concern for racecourses and for trainers but all the owners and trainers I spoke to were delighted with the condition of the turf at Chepstow. It was unfortunate for racegoers that it was a damp weekend, but it was great news for the racing.
If we hadn’t had the rain on Friday and Saturday, there would have been plenty of non-runners but as it was, the surface was great and the quality of the racing was really high. I would have liked to come away with more than the one winner (Drinks Interval) and we had a few disappointments, but that’s racing!
We’re back racing at Cheltenham on Friday and Saturday. After the spell of wet weather over the Chepstow weekend there has been little rain since and there will be a lot of trainers watching the Cheltenham going this week. At this stage of the season no-one wants to risk running their horses on ground too quick. At the moment Cheltenham say their ground is good, so we really could do with a bit of rain this week.
One of the ones I’m most looking forward to riding this season is Gumball (pictured after winning at Chepstow) who is entered at Cheltenham on Saturday. He won the juvenile hurdle at Chepstow at last October’s Jump Season Opener and ran really well to finish second at Aintree to We Have A Dream before winning again at Ludlow at the end of the season. He’s definitely one to look forward to.
Drinks Interval is entered on Friday at Cheltenham in a novices’ chase. She was my only winner at Chepstow’s Jump Season Opener last week. I was impressed with her. She has plenty of experience and she was a really enthusiastic traveller and jumper. She had been running over the summer, so she possibly had a fitness advantage over some, but she’s a nice mare and she won't mind quickish going.
I rode a nice winner for Tim Vaughan at Carlisle last week, Looksnowtlikebrian did it well, really sticking his neck out to win the staying chase final. Tim is one of the most enthusiastic people I know and it’s good to see his yard in form. A few years ago he built a modern new barn at the top of his gallops to replace a lower yard which got very damp in the winter – it seems to be easier now to keep the horses well throughout the winter and this should pay dividends. I’m glad this big investment is paying off for him.
I’m off to Plumpton today, my best chance would be on Call To Order for Jonjo O’Neill. I won on him at Market Rasen in the summer and was pleased to keep the ride. It’s a competitive contest for a three runner race today, but this horse has plenty of experience and I hope to go well.
I feel massively sorry for Sean Quinlan after what happened at Sedgefield yesterday. He was banned for 12 days after being found to have taken the wrong course in the valuable Durham National which he was leading on Red Giant. On the previous circuit the runners bypassed a fence due to jockey Page Fuller being treated on the far side of the fence. On the final lap he bypassed the fence again while the rest of the field jumped it, and pulled up when he realised the mistake. There is a sharp bend before this fence and it would have been a split second decision as to whether to jump it or not. Usually if you miss a fence on one circuit, you’d expect to do the same the next time round. I’m not sure what I would have done in that situation, and I can completely understand why Sean did what he did so his penalty seems very harsh.