You won’t need me reminding you that it’s Grand National week and I wish you all luck, but my own plans for later in the week are still in the air.
I do know though that I’ll be at Aintree on Thursday at least, riding Thyme White for the boss (Paul Nicholls) in the Red Rum Chase (16:40), and that’s definitely one to look forward to.
I rode Thyme White for the only time in public when he was a very easy winner in a small field at Doncaster in December, but I was booked for him again at Cheltenham until Paul pulled him out of the Grand Annual Chase when the ground went against him. He’s been beaten since then at Ascot, but he didn’t do much wrong.
Thyme White looked a bit of a bull there and was quite fresh, but he travelled well and just met one too good for him in Golden Boy Grey, who has been in good form all season. He’s a slick jumper with a high cruising speed, so the Red Rum Chase ought to suit him well. I rode him at home on Monday morning and he felt A1.
Bravemansgame is our NAP
I don’t know if I’ll be required on any others for Paul, but he’s going to Aintree with a battalion of big guns, including Bravemansgame and Clan Des Obeaux on day one.
Bravemansgame is definitely our banker and we are all really excited to see him racing again after he missed Cheltenham, like Thyme White, when the ground got testing.
You may remember how much I was looking forward last week to a first trip to Ayr. Well it didn’t work out quite as I’d hoped, because I got buried on my first ride there!
My crashing fall at Ayr
Flic Ou Voyou looked to have a nice chance in a handicap chase on Friday but he hit the open ditch really hard. At the time I thought two things. My first thought was that he did very well to stand up, but I also felt I’d done very well to stay with him.
As a rule of thumb, when a horse makes a mistake as bad as that they don’t do it again, at least not straight away, but at the very next fence Flic Ou Voyou was even worse, as he didn’t even lift off.
This time I wasn’t so lucky and I had literally no chance of staying on board. I came down at speed from quite a height and I thought Flic Ou Voyou was sure to come down with me, but somehow he channelled his nine lives into staying on his feet, which he then used on me as if I was a doormat, as did the one that was following us.
While I took a couple of seconds getting my breath before getting up the fence attendants were already putting up the dolls in case I needed longer on the ground. They were awesome, as were the medical team, who were straight to me.
Luckily nothing was broken and I wasn’t stood down by the racecourse doctor, but I’d taken quite a hit and so after talking to the boss and my agent Dave Roberts we collectively decided that I shouldn’t take my later ride on Skatman, partly because I might not have done him justice and also because I had two fancied rides that we didn’t want to miss on the Saturday.
Giving my body the rest of the day to recover was the right thing to do, and although I was stiff the following morning I was okay once I got moving again. It was only muscle damage, and after a session with the racecourse physio, who strapped me up good and proper, I was fit to go back into battle.
Strong performances but no reward
Both of my rides went very well for a long way, but unfortunately neither won. For a young horse who had run at Cheltenham only a couple of weeks earlier I thought Il Ridoto did really well in the Future Champions Novices’ Chase, and his third place doesn’t tell the full story.
The winner won well, but we only lost second on the line and if I hadn’t been riding to win I think we were easily the second best horse in the race. On his first try at two and a half miles he jumped to the front with a circuit to go, but the winner, who was a proven stayer, came and took us on at the second-last down the back, so we got racing a long way out.
We were flat out from a very long way from home and it just told in the end, but we haven’t stopped and I wouldn’t say he didn’t get the trip. He’s only five, so he’s going to get stronger, and it was his first overnight trip. He’s a tough horse who jumps well, and there are so many positives to take from the race. He’s going to go on progressing and is one to follow next season.
Getaway Trump isn’t the easiest to win with and the handicap hurdle over two miles five was a tricky little race with no great pace. It was a bit cat and mouse and I didn’t want to find myself boxed in when they started to sprint, so I set my sights on the winning line and took up the running before the second last.
At that stage thought we were going as well as the winner, but he missed two out and was immediately challenged again. He’s a horse who knows when he’s up against it, and Saturday wasn’t his day, but he is definitely enjoying himself more back over hurdles. With the ground drying out and a little bit more help from the handicapper there will be other days for him.
After such a big team effort it was frustrating to come back without a winner, as these trips take a lot of planning and it was a long old drive for Julie, Kate and Kev, who took the horses up on Thursday. But that’s racing.
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