On the week I was lucky enough to ride my 1,000th British winner it’s great to join the FansBet team in my role as Ambassador, giving me a platform to share my insight and experiences in the saddle and give my views on the world of National Hunt horse racing.
Getting a bit of luck and staying injury free is obviously a massive part of it, but I have to thank the owners, trainers and grooms who supply the horses I get to ride on a daily basis in pristine condition, as well as my agent Richard Hale and the team of valets who help us out in the weighing room. Fingers crossed there are many more successes to come.
Despite its individual nature, there’s a big team effort which helps keep the sport of racing going, part of which is the charity Racing Welfare. I’m a big fan of theirs, so the fact anyone who chooses to bet with FansBet can select Racing Welfare as a beneficiary as part of their ‘Fan Partner’ initiative makes my role a comfortable fit.
Looking back at events this week, one ride I especially enjoyed was Ribble Valley at Ayr on Tuesday. His trainer Nicky Richards has his string in tremendous order at present, and this fella has now won two bumpers at the same track, as well as running with credit at Cheltenham in a deep looking race at the November meeting.
On this occasion he picked up nicely when I asked him and is maturing all the while – in the fullness of time you’d have to hope he’ll make up into a decent hurdler on the strength of what he’s shown so far.
Not four legged but financial, I’ll also mention something I appreciate in the rise in riding fee for us jumps jockeys, up slightly to a new figure of £173.59. I realise that might sound a lot, but we have to pay our transport, equipment, agents and valets out of that amount, plus it’s well documented that National Hunt racing isn’t without its pitfalls in terms of potential for sometimes lengthy injury layoffs.
Looking ahead, my weekends at this time of year tend to be pretty full on, this one being no exception:
It’s destination Wetherby for me on Saturday afternoon for a book of six rides, kicking off in the opener at 12.30pm, a two mile maiden hurdle in which I ride Constancio for Donald McCain.
I rode him two starts ago at Musselburgh where although he ran well in second it felt as though he could improve going left-handed. Will Kennedy rode him going that way round the last day when he ran another solid race at Sedgefield, again finishing second. It’s early days for him but hopefully he won’t be too long in going one better.
Next up, I’m on Just Don’t Ask for Charlie Longsdon in the extended 2m 3f novices’ chase at 1.05pm. I won on this fella twice last year in maiden and novice company, and then got back on him at Uttoxeter last time out on his first start of the season, two weeks before Christmas.
I thought he travelled nicely for a fair way before tiring late on – understandable given it was his first outing for nine months – and the one month break will likely have done him some good.
I believe he’s also had a small procedure to aid his wind, with better ground hopefully a plus. This looks competitive but you’d have to hope he has a reasonable chance based on the ratings.
Moving onto race three, Val Mome is one of Donald’s who has been on the go a fair while. I won on him at Bangor in October and he gave me a good feel when we were narrowly beaten at Musselburgh two starts back.
This race is probably a more realistic target than the company he kept last time out when fifth on new year’s day. He’s a horse who tries hard but I’d be more hopeful than confident after his busy schedule.
One I am looking forward to is Tom Gretton’s Kauto Riko, who although sent off at 20/1 won well for me at Haydock Park three days before Christmas. He’s up against a couple of decent sorts in the small field 1m 7f handicap chase at 2.15pm, but is nonetheless probably my best chance of a winner on Saturday afternoon. I’ve ridden him six times now and won four of them, with places on the other two occasions.
He’s uncomplicated and has a good engine.
My penultimate spin of the day comes on Thyne For Gold for Team McCain in the handicap chase at 3.25pm.
Will Kennedy won twice on him previously, but up in trip on a left-handed track he didn’t seem to enjoy himself when I rode him at Musselburgh a month or so ago. Down in trip and reverting to a left-handed circuit hopefully he can bounce back.
Finally, I’d be misleading you if I claimed to know much about Little Lady Lu, the filly I ride for Irish trainer James Nash in the concluding bumper at 3.55pm. By Mahler, she’s related to a few winners and I very much hope she can be competitive and enjoy her first taste of the racecourse.