A day on the sidelines is a day too many at this time of the season and it’ll be a relief to be back in the saddle today at Hexham, with Heavy ground in store for my collection of five rides for five different trainers.
I start off for Jedd O’Keeffe in the two mile novices’ hurdle at 1.55pm, riding his Lord Yeats, who had a very high rating on the Flat and already has a mark of 132 over obstacles. He’s already won at Sedgefield under Joe Colliver and been second for me at Kelso the last day, and with this race run on the freshest ground I’m hopeful of making a good start to the afternoon.
No ride in race two means I should be able to catch at least some of the Pertemps down at Cheltenham from the comfort of the weighing room, before heading out to ride the mare, Broadway Belle, for Chris Grant in race three at 3.15pm. She has won over this course and distance previously, plus I was on her when she went in at Sedgefield a year ago over three miles and three furlongs. She’ll enjoy this testing ground and is seemingly on a mark from which she can be competitive, so I hope she has a squeak.
As ever, the four mile handicap chase at 3.55pm is going to take some getting, especially with such testing conditions to negotiate. It’s a race I’ve been lucky enough to taste victory in once before, and my hopes of landing it again rest with Tim Easterby’s Very First Time. Now a seven year old, I won a couple on him at the end of 2017, one of which was around here on Heavy ground. It’s fair to say he hasn’t been performing like he can of late, but that means he’s slipped to what is hopefully an attractive mark of 115. Tim’s gone for a pair of first time blinkers to try and sharpen him up, so here’s hoping we get a bit of luck and they bring about some improvement.
I then reappear on the Paul Collins-trained Solid Strike in the two and a half mile handicap chase at 5.15pm. This isn’t a horse I’ve ridden before, but I see he’s a four-time Point-to-Point winner who was also a decent second at Leicester last time out. Top weight in this sort of race with first-time cheekpieces applied hopefully add up to his turn not being too far away.
Lastly, time flies but it’s three years since I got the leg-up to win on Ballyalton for Ian Williams at the Cheltenham Festival, and in the last race today I’m on his mare Whispering Affair at 5.50pm. She’s another I’ve no previous experience of, but dropping in trip on a testing track after three okay runs over further, I hope that’s enough to put her in the mix. It would be great to ride another winner for Ian.
While my busy afternoon is going on I’ll be doing my best to catch as much of the action as possible at Cheltenham. Given the choice, I thought Defi Du Seuil might be the one you’d want to ride in the JLT Novices Chase at 1.30pm. Barry Geraghty was out of luck in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, but I thought this looked the ideal race for his horse, who will enjoy track, trip and ground.
Later on, this might raise a few eyebrows from fans of Footpad and Monalee, but the two I’d be most keen on in the Ryanair Chase at 2.50pm are Un De Sceaux and Road To Respect. The former has been first and second in the last two runnings and with rain around will adore the condition, while Road To Respect, if you’ll forgive the pun, never quite seems to get the respect he deserves.
Finally, as a racing fan, who wouldn’t want Faugheen to land the Stayers Hurdle at 3.30pm? Paisley Park is a quality horse, but Faugheen should never be written off and deservedly won the three miler at Punchestown back in April.
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