Promising Village looks poised to follow up at Cheltenham

I’ll ride far more horses on the gallops this weekend than I will on the track, as I have just one mount, which comes today at Punchestown aboard Myles Ahead, trained by my father. 
Promising Village looks poised to follow up at Cheltenham

He didn’t get home over today’s trip, two miles six, on his last start, but that was because he was far too free in first-time blinkers.

The headgear has been taken off him and, with only nine runners in the race, it’s almost each-way-punting heaven. And that’s what he is – an each-way bet. He’ll be an each-way price, and I’ll be disappointed if he’s not in the first three.

That’s the extent of my participation on the tracks, but I will be looking on with real interest at the novice chases in Ireland and Britain.

Identity Thief makes his chasing debut in the two-mile beginners’ chase at Punchestown. He was a very good jumper of hurdles, and probably always looked a chaser. Whilst he was a Champion Hurdle horse going chasing, he was only a novice hurdler for a very short period.

Horses which spend a long time over hurdles can struggle when they go chasing, but he had a relatively short hurdling career, and so that shouldn’t present any issues for him. He is a horse which, you would imagine, has Arkle credentials at this stage, and should be very hard to beat today.

Disko catches the eye in the two-and-a-half-mile beginners’ chase. He looked very good early last year, but obviously had his issues as he didn’t run very often. But his bumper form is very good, his hurdle form, though there isn’t very much of it, is solid enough, and the reports of his schooling are encouraging. He could have a bright future.

Also, in the UK today, Shantou Village has his second outing over fences, in the novices’ chase. He was impressive at Fontwell, and appeals as the type which could end up in the RSA Chase of even the John Thomas McNamara National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

I was reading Cheltenham’s clerk of the course Simon Claisse’s article this week about it being the driest autumn since 2003, and, looking at long-range forecasts, we shouldn’t expect too much rain for the next three weeks either. There will be showers, but not the amount of rain required to make the good tracks safe.

The horses in Willie’s yard are all in good order, and are working away, and I’d expect they’ll be ready to go in about three weeks, which should coincide with the anticipated softening of the ground.

The season kicks off for us in November, and that’s the way it has been for as many years as I can remember. It works for Willie - he aims for our horses to last until Punchestown, whereas most British horses will only be aiming to last until Aintree.

I’ve heard people saying the trainers’ championship could be over early, with Gordon Elliott having so many winners, and Willie having so few runners, but I don’t think so.

Obviously Gordon is doing brilliantly, racking up the winners and the prize-money, but the bigger prize-money races are the ones which usually decide the championship, and they run from November through to the end of the season, so there is an awful long way to go yet. It’s going to be an exciting season.

Aintree hosts a good card tomorrow, featuring the Old Roan Chase – a race I won 10 years ago when Kauto Star started off here in the first season he won the Gold Cup. It’s a big day for Adrian Heskin, and winning the race aboard God’s Own would be a great start to his association with Tom George. Good ground and two and a half miles really suit the horse, and he should have too much pace for Smad Place.

Looking back at this week’s action in Ireland, you’d have to feel sorry for Jack Kennedy. How unlucky was he to come back from a fracture of his tibia and to suffer it again on his first ride back, in a juvenile hurdle.

It happened to me in the past, when I broke my leg. When I came back I got a fall schooling and reopened the same fracture.

I am a lot older than Jack, but for the past few years I have tended to give three-year-old hurdles a wide berth until December. It’s not because of the one you’re riding yourself, but because of the ones you could be against. I have no doubt all those horses were well schooled, but horses are like sheep and when one three-year-old jams on the brakes, they all follow suit.

I think Jack is a brilliant jockey, but on Thursday I saw another side to him – one you need to be a top jockey. He got himself up off the ground and hobbled out of the racetrack. He was on one leg, but trying to put the other one under him.

For a 17-year-old he is a very, very tough individual, and that is something which will stand him in good stead for his career. He’s very young, but working in a man’s world, and there he was trying to be a man, and making a damn-good fist of it.

I feel sorry for him – I don’t like to see anyone getting hurt - but to see the brave way he acted at Thurles was just another sign to me that he is destined for the top.

Time to cater for a different audience

I was greatly taken with Far Hills, New Jersey, last weekend. It was, as I suggested here last week, the most upmarket point to point I was ever at. It has point to point facilities - no infrastructure.

Weather-wise, it wasn’t a hot day, like an autumnal day in Ireland. It got warm at lunchtime, but to see the atmosphere they could create, purely through families driving in, opening their boots, laying out picnics, and just generally enjoying themselves. It was incredible and yet so simple.

There was a huge crowd, of all ages, but particularly in the 18 to 25 range. Maybe racetracks over here have looked in to it, and maybe the market isn’t there in Ireland, but looking at it last week, all I could think was ‘wow, why aren’t we trying this?’

I fully understand gambling is a massive part of racing, but there is also an audience who don’t gamble, who just want a day out, and want to be entertained. To let people bring their own food and drink, and to charge them to park in your venue to watch what was going on, I thought was simple - and genius. I’m not a PR guru, but I’d love to know how they can make it work, and we couldn’t.

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Saturday, December 4, 2021

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