This particular Saturday does not hold any great attraction for me. It’s not the fact I have only two rides, but rather the manner in which I have had to leave the course for the last two years.
Twelve months ago, I lost my spleen on this day and spent 27 days on the sidelines as a result. The previous year, I dislocated my shoulder and that took six weeks to heal.
Excuse me then if I won’t exactly be filled with anticipation, as I head out to ride in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
If you imagine for a second, however, that my first priority will be self-preservation, you simply don’t know me. Don’t worry, I’ll be giving it all I’ve got-and more.
As I put this together yesterday morning, here at Cheltenham, the rain was coming down. That wasn’t good news for Poquelin, in the Paddy Power, and I was praying for the rain to disappear.
There was the possibility Poquelin mightn’t run and, in that case, I would switch to Tatenen. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but deep down I really want it to be Poquelin.
The progressive six-year-old won here last month and, though it wasn’t anywhere near as competitive as this, he absolutely bolted in.
He has a grand weight with 11-1 and is the ideal type for the contest, as a second season novice. There are loads of dangers, of course, headed by Ballyfitz and Tranquil Sea, but I’m just keeping my fingers crossed the conditions will be okay for my lad.
I’m on Earth Planet in the long distance handicap hurdle and he has a lovely weight as well, off 10-5. But there’s no point in trying to dress him up, he is a moderate horse.
Tataniano should get me away to the perfect start in the opening Grade 2 novice chase here tomorrow.
He made a favourable impression first time up over fences at Exeter, scoring by 32 lengths. This is a straightforward task, with just three rivals.
There’s no great mystery to Tataniano, he likes to front-run and the plan is for him to enhance his reputation.
Then it’s onto Master Minded in the Connaught Chase and he’s the reason why I will be at Cheltenham on Sunday and not at Punchestown to partner Hurricane Fly.
It’s heartbreaking not to be with Hurricane Fly, but I cannot cut myself in two. Anyway, Master Minded is probably best described as a hell of a good horse.
He loves this place, having won two Champion Chases round the track. I schooled him at Paul Nicholls’ last Wednesday and he jumped super.
When we won the Champion Chase in March, Well Chief was seven lengths second and is now 10lbs better in.
I suppose, in theory, that could bring them together, but if the real Masted Minded turns up then he will deliver.
Noel Meade has booked me for Silverhand, in the Greatwood Hurdle, and I just hope he can translate what he’s been doing on the flat of late to jumps.
Mahonia has a chance in a handicap hurdle, having lost his way somewhat last season. A real big effort is expected and he won’t be far away, on his best form.
Rebel Du Maquis won an egg and spoon race by 17 lengths at Exeter, but the Grade 2 novices’ hurdle he now contests is a different ball game entirely.
I mean there is no comparison between what he did at Exeter and what Reve De Sivola produced in a proper contest at Chepstow.
And then we arrive at the Bumper and one of my better rides in Ghizao, who won pulling a train on his debut at Newton Abbot.
Paul really likes this horse and tells me he has improved no end since Newton Abbot. Let’s hope he’s right.
I think Hurricane Fly will win at Punchestown. He’s not very big, but has a terrific engine.
I believe he is a very, very good horse and hope he lives up to what Willie Mullins and I both think of him.
Willie should enjoy the weekend, weather permitting! His Quel Esprit, a gorgeous big horse, who is only marking time over flights, can win at Punchestown today.
At Cork tomorrow, he has some real live hopes, headed by Our Monty, if he stays, Skorcher, Quadrillon and Sicilian Secret.
Among my trips next week will be either Cork or Plumpton (Monday), Clonmel (Wednesday) and Thurles (Thursday), while, if still in one piece, next weekend will be all about Kauto Star at Haydock on Saturday.