I’ll start off this week with a reflection on the tragic loss of Natasha Galpin, an important and evidently much-loved member of staff who worked for successful trainer Iain Jardine.
Just 22 years-of-age, she lost her life this week after a gallops accident in which she took a terrible fall. By all accounts an outstanding rider, the shock of her loss is a grave reminder of the importance of caring for the people who are the backbone of racing.
As a jockey I’m well looked after, especially if I need specialist help recuperating from an injury – Jack Berry House, Oaksey House and the likes are magnificent facilities, but Natasha’s loss is a rude awakening that at all levels we can never take the risks of this job lightly, and collectively we absolutely must do our best to boost and encourage the likes of Racing Welfare, who do such excellent work supporting grooms and racing staff at all levels.
A pale issue by comparison, I’d also like to use my blog to give a brief reflection on a story that has gained plenty of air time in racing circles over the past few days, namely that of the new British Horse Racing Authority ruling regarding all runners in jumps races having to wear both front and hind horse shoes.
To the casual observer that might not sound like a significant change, but believe you me when you get trodden on after a fall by a horse wearing steel shoes on their hind feet, you know about it even more than if it comes from a horse who isn’t wearing anything on their rear hooves!
The argument is it’ll improve safety by giving horses better grip – it makes sense for Flat races where some of the tracks are of a tight configuration with sharp bends, plus they’re going quicker, but it isn’t something I’ve had an issue with over the sticks, and that comes from someone who my agent tells me has ridden in more than 3,700 races over the last five years.
Trainers have traditionally always been able to exercise choice and discretion about whether they want to send their runners out shod behind, something I completely agree with. They’re granted a license to train because they are trusted to be the guardian of the animals in their care – surely that should extend to shoeing?
Anyway, at this stage of the season I’d expect to be busy and this week has been no different, taking me to Kelso, Newcastle and Market Rasen so far, with winners at all but Kelso to keep the wolf from the door.
A rare ‘day off’ on Monday was fairly hectic too, with a full morning riding out followed by a trip to Doncaster racecourse, where on a non-race day I was invited to join Ed Chamberlin from ITV Racing on a course walk for an upcoming feature.
Hopefully I can round it off with a decent weekend, with one mount Ascot on Saturday followed by a busier day at Ayr on Sunday., where I’m booked to partner five horses.
The first of those is the Nicky Richards-trained Better Getalong in Ascot’s Grade 3 Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle (Sat, 2.25pm).
This a nice horse who I finished second on to the re-opposing Ballymoy at Haydock just before Christmas, a fair effort given it was first outing for eight months.
I know Nicky has thought a bit of him for quite a while, he’s entitled to strip fitter with a run under his belt, plus we’re getting more weight from Ballymoy this time.
The obvious question is how good is Charles Byrnes’s horse Thosedayaregone? He won easily at Wetherby on Saturday and will be dangerous if turning up again here in the same mood, but I wouldn’t be rushing to swap mine and am hopeful he can be right in the mix.
Skipping on to Sunday at Ayr, Donald McCain’s Lord Springfield gets me up-and-running in the opening maiden hurdle (12.50pm).
An Irish Point-to-Point winner less than a year ago, maybe his first run under rules was a shade below expectations.
He had a little tinker with his wind after that, shaping much better last time out at Carlisle when I rode him over an inadequate distance.
Up in trip here to nearly two miles and five furlongs we’re hopeful he can show continued improvement.
For the same stable, next up is Flemens Story in the staying novices’ hurdle (1.25pm).
I felt he just found himself a bit outpaced over two-and-three-quarter miles on Good ground the last day. With any luck up to three miles on a softer surface he’ll be much more at home.
There’s time for a cup of tea with no ride in race three, but it’s back to it on Kings Eclipse for trainer Andrew Wilson in the marathon three mile three furlong chase (2.35pm).
It’s just over a year since I won on him at Sedgefield, but inbetween times he earned a ten pounds rise in the weights for a dour staying performance at Carlisle the last day, a display I hope puts him in the right mood for what looks a wide-open race.
My penultimate ride of the day is Hills Of Dubai, a horse of Donald’s who loves Ayr (3.05pm).
I was on him both times he won here in January of last year, after which he twice ran well in defeat in the spring.
You can argue that his run the last day maybe just came a little bit too quick, and with him in good form and back at his favourite track I’m keeping my fingers crossed he’s my best hope of a winner this weekend.
Last but not least, I’m on Valkenburg for Keith Dalgleish in the handicap hurdle (3.40pm).
A bit of a monkey but certainly not without ability, he has a tendency to race lazily if you let him.
He ran alright over nearly two-and-three-quarter miles here the last day, doing his best work at the finish. The evidence of that run, plus the fact he’s a winner on the Flat over a mile-and-a-half suggests this step up to three miles can help.
*all odds are subject to change