Friday, December 30, 2016

Looking ahead to New Year's Day

Great excitement!  We don't have many runners in the winter (we had one in November and two in December, etc) but we shouldn't have to wait long to have a runner once 2017 has started because White Valiant (pictured here, yesterday, happily sporting considerably more mud than he will wear on Sunday afternoon) is declared for the last race at Cheltenham on Sunday.  It's always exciting to have a runner at Cheltenham, particularly if one doesn't have runners there very often.  In 22 years of training I doubt that I have had more than five or six, our most recent one having been more than five years ago, Alcalde in October 2011.

Our best result there was when Diamond Joshua finished third in the Triumph Hurdle, the first British-trained horse home  in the Britain's biggest juvenile hurdle.  But that was nearly 15 years ago, on Gold Cup Day 2002, the day that Best Mate won his first Gold Cup.  So that's a fairly distant memory by now.  That was actually the second time that I'd found my way to the placed horses' unsaddling enclosure at the Cheltenham Festival, and the third time that I'd been to the Festival as a competitor.  In 1985 I had led up the horse who finished fourth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Welsh Warrior, ridden by Steve Knight, who is now Richard Hannon's head lad) and in 1987 I had ridden Le Vulgan in the National Hunt Chase (and fell off).

Both horses were trained by my boss Andy Turnell, as was the other horse I had ridden at the course (but not at the Festival): Black Rod, third behind the Fred Winter-trained Observe in an amateurs' steeplechase there in 1986.  But those are even more distant memories - so, as you can gather, any trip there is a rare and special occasion.  So we'll go to Cheltenham on Sunday and savour the fact of being competitors at the world's premier National Hunt racecourse; and anything better than that would be an unexpected bonus.  A further source of pleasure will be that we will have Davy Russell on board.

I was hoping that Daryl Jacob would be able to ride, as he's a terrific jockey and he rode the horse superbly when he won on him last month.  But the disappointment of the news that he was obliged to ride for Nicky Henderson in the race was assuaged by the discovery that Davy Russell was available to take his place.  There is no jockey, Flat or National Hunt, anywhere in the world whom I admire and respect more, and prior to today it had never occurred to me, not least because he lives and mostly rides in Ireland, that he would ever don my silks.  I hope that I don't forget my camera!

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

best of luck on sunday and for the new year thought the piece on mr swinburn is superb