I expect to be fit to ride at Newbury today, despite being stood down after a fall there yesterday.
I took a tumble aboard Curtain Razer in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle after which the racecourse doctor ruled me out of my two remaining rides on the card.
I sprained a thumb and will have to be checked over by the doctor this morning, but I expect to get the all clear.'
The Hennessy is the big one today, but much of my focus will be centred on the great Big Buck’s in the Grade 2 hurdle over an extended three miles.
Big Buck’s is simply Big Buck’s and, without a doubt, one of the greatest stayers of all time over flights.
He is now unbeaten in 17 races and that record speaks for itself. It is virtually impossible to beat him and I’ll be stunned should he fail to deliver one more time.
Big Buck’s only has to face three rivals and, in his younger days, that might have presented a problem. But, as he’s got older, has become much easier to ride and just lives on a different planet to this opposition. There is no such thing as a certainty in racing, but he is as close to one as we’re going to get.
I’m on top weight Tidal Bay in the Hennessy and there is no doubt have had better rides in what is a smashing handicap.
Having ridden at the track yesterday, the ground was nowhere near as soft as we had been led to believe and that is a minus for the veteran.
Tidal Bay is in good form, as he showed when winning a Grade 2 hurdle at Wetherby on his seasonal debut.
What he needs is a swinging gallop and then to try and come through late. That would be much easier in testing conditions and I’ve a feeling this will probably prove a bridge too far.
I’m on record as saying that the second season novices are well handicapped and won’t be surprised should the winner emerge from either Bobs Worth or First Lieutenant.
They were first and second respectively in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March and there isn’t a huge amount between them on that running.
My day begins on Rolling Aces in a competitive handicap chase. He was third at Ascot last time and, you can can argue, has it all to do off 11-12. But this is weaker and he has a life.
Likewise, I’m expecting Salubrious to go close in a handicap hurdle. I rode him to finish fourth at Chepstow and he just got tired before the last. I’d imagine Salubrious will have come on plenty for that.
I finish in yet another handicap, this time over fences, on Ulck Du Lin. Paul Nicholls likes this horse, but he was a rather remote third at Stratford and I think has to improve.
At Fairyhouse tomorrow I’m sweet on Champagne Fever in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle. You’d have to be happy with his debut over jumps at Cork, when he won for Paul Townend.
I know that was a modest contest, but liked what I saw and thought he came through that initial test with flying colours.
He won bumpers at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals and has a real engine. I love this horse and, while I respect some of the others, Jezki in particular, I’m reasonably confident.
I’m on Arvika Ligeonniere in the Drinmore Chase and the tactics here are going to prove fascinating. You might believe Arvika is up against it, but he’s a fine big horse and a real chaser.
He won in a canter at Punchestown in May, by 13 lengths, and you dismiss him at your peril. But he likes to front-run, as does Pride Of The Artic and Buckers Bridge, so something has to give. My worry is that we will set it up for the Dedigout.
I’m on Zaidpour - in preference to So Young - in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, but not too much should be read into that.
Both horses are schooling and working the same, very nicely, and picking between them was a real head-scratcher.
Voler La Vedette was a bit disappointing when beaten at Navan, but I’d expect the real Voler to arrive on Sunday. If she does then we will all be up against it in any case.
At Fairyhouse today give Mikael d’Haguenet another chance in the two miles and five beginners chase.
I recommended him strongly here two weeks ago for a race at Punchestown and, watching at Cheltenham, nearly cried when I saw what happened.
He was going to win alone, but for losing his footing completely at the back of the final fence, and then couldn’t get back at El Fontan.
Remarkably, he seems to have suffered no ill-effects and is moving, working and looking great and I have not lost faith.
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