I had to give up my intended ride on The Job Is Right at Clonmel on Thursday after a fall from Bleu Berry in the opener, but will be back in action at Limerick tomorrow, with two rides for Willie.
Bellow Mome is the first of them, and I fear the forecast is against him. He would be better on quicker ground, which is a shame as he is in good form and looks reasonably treated off his current mark of 123.
I hope he will get away with the expected testing conditions but, whatever happens this time, I’m sure he’s a horse that will win his share in the summer.
I’m also on Avant Tout in the Grade 2 Novice Chase. He ran very well in the Coral Cup las time, but prior to that had been very unlucky to fall at Thurles in a good race won by Smashing. I felt he still had a chance before the fall and wouldn’t have been far away. He also ran well behind Outlander at Limerick on his seasonal debut.
This is a four-horse race but it looks a match between him and Lord Scoundrel. It will be interesting to see how it works out, but I certainly wouldn’t swap mine.
That race will wrap up a quiet weekend for me, but we have Aintree to look forward to next week, and it comes at a perfect time for the Cheltenham horses.
Whereas Fairyhouse is tied in with Easter, and the proximity to Cheltenham dictates the quality of the meeting - no horse which ran at Cheltenham won at Fairyhouse last weekend – Aintree comes three weeks after, which is ideal.
Looking at the Cheltenham winners, you’d imagine most of them will be hard enough to beat at Aintree.
With no Min, Altior should follow up his Supreme Novices’ Hurdle victory in the two-mile race for novices. There’s a chance we might put Limini in that race, which would make it very interesting – but it’s only a chance.
Barring accidents, Douvan should win the two-mile novice chase. He won comfortably at Cheltenham, and will have the same horses to beat.
The one worry we had about Annie Power running in the Champion Hurdle was whether or not she was quick enough, so you’d imagine the step up to two and a half miles should yield the same result in the Aintree Hurdle on Thursday.
Yorkhill and Yanworth, first and second in the Neptune, could re-oppose in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, and I see no reason Yorkhill won’t confirm that form.
In the three-mile novice chase on this flatter track, there may be a chance Shaneshill will reverse RSA form with Blaklion, while Bristol De Mai would make it very interesting if he stepped up in trip after his run behind Black Hercules in the JLT at Cheltenham.
In the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase the sharper track might suit L’Ami Serge more than Black Hercules. Nicky Henderson’s horse showed a good turn of foot off the home bend in the JLT but didn’t seem to quite get home. It won’t be such a test this time, and his speed will be an asset.
World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack looks unopposable in the Liverpool hurdle. He won the three-mile novice hurdle at this meeting last year, and was most impressive at Cheltenham.
Perhaps the most open of the top races is the three-mile novice hurdle, but I think Gangster could improve most of Willie’s horses and could get involved.
Ivanovich Gorbatov is the one to beat in the Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle, but I set off on Footpad intending to sit a couple of lengths behind him in the Triumph Hurdle and my horse was slow at the first, which meant I ended up a long way off the pace. Could he get closer to the winner? Of course he could, but turning the form around is a different matter.
Apple’s Jade finished second at Cheltenham, and it’s quite possible the flat track here could suit her. The Triumph was her first race since Christmas, and she should improve from it, to again give Ivanovich Gorbatov most to think about.
Augusta Kate has a real chance in the mares’ bumper. The ground was plenty quick enough for her at Cheltenham and she found the geldings too good, and yet was beaten only five lengths behind Ballyandy. Back against her own sex, she must have very strong claims.
The Champions Chasers are in limbo, as there is no two-mile championship race at the meeting. Sprinter Sacre won’t be going to Aintree, and Special Tiara looks a two-mile specialist. I don’t know whether or not Willie will run Ryanair Chase winner Vautour and Champion Chase runner-up Un De Sceaux in the same race, but it is the last two-and-a-half-mile championship race of the season, as the races at Sandown and Punchestown are over two miles.
And then, of course, there are the three-milers. With Don Cossack bypassing the meeting, Don Poli, Djakadam or Cue Card should have their day. Over the shorter trip on this sharper, flatter track, Cue Card might be hard to beat, but Don Poli has course form, having beaten Many Clouds here earlier in the season.
New rules will hopefully improve standards
This week the BHA announced new changes to interference rules in the UK, resulting in them being much stricter on jockeys who cause intentional interference - and I think it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Part of race-riding is getting in the right position, finding the best way through a race, and not getting caught in those pockets. If you switch and come down the outside it’s only right that the jockey caught on your inner cannot barge their way out.
We all take chances. For instance, last Tuesday at Fairyhouse I went down some cul-de-sacs on Clondaw Warrior but fortunately for me the gaps opened in time. If they hadn’t, however, I couldn’t just barge my way out - that wouldn’t be right or proper race-riding.
It’s like driving a car down the motorway. If there’s a car in front and one on your outer, you can’t just barge your way out, without obvious consequences.
You have to slow down, switch out and go by when the gap appears. It’s the same with horses.
I hope, as I’m sure the BHA does, that it will improve the standard of race-riding, make jockeys think sharper, think further down the line by pre-empting what might happen.
There is merit in having the rules and, while the rule is not perfect, I think it is a step in the right direction.
As with all rules, though, it needs to be monitored carefully to gauge whether or not it is working.
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