It was a bit like old times yesterday, riding at Haydock and then heading down the M6, for about four hours, on the way to Ascot.
I was at Haydock to partner Turban for Willie Mullins in a Graduation Chase, but it didn’t go well and we trailed home fourth of four.
He made a mistake at the third fence, lost two hind shoes and was always fighting a losing battle afterwards.
There was no point dwelling on that misfortune, it was just a case of hopping in the hired car on the way to spending the night with my old friend, AP McCoy.
There’s one thing I do not miss about riding in England on a Friday, the motorways. What a nightmare!
Anyway, I’m hoping for better luck at Ascot today, where my main focus of attention will be aboard Champion Hurdle favourite, Faugheen, in a Grade 2.
He is seven from seven, a point-to-point, bumper and five over hurdles, and was especially brilliant at the back-end of last season, at both Cheltenham and Punchestown.
This looks an ideal starting place for him and, of course, we won the same race a year ago with Annie Power.
We all know that this is simply a very good horse, he has been in great form at home and are more than happy with him.
Faugheen is easily the highest rated in the contest and there will be long faces all round if he fails to collect.
I have three other rides, starting with Harry Fry’s Fletchers Flyer in the opening novice hurdle.
Harry is a former assistant to Paul Nicholls and has made a big impact since striking out on his on.
Fletchers Flyer is obviously a useful sort, having come to the Punchestown festival to win a bumper.
He jumped well on his debut over flights at Ffos Las and just seemed to get a bit tired in the closing stages.
And Paul Nicholls has given me the nod to ride another old pal of mine, Al Ferof, in the Amlin Chase. This fellow has looked after me before, considering I won a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and a Paddy Power on him.
I end on a newcomer for Rebecca Curtis, Preseli Rock, in the bumper. I know nothing about the horse, except that connections indicated it might be worth my while hanging around for him. I hope they are right, because, while I’m waiting, I could be halfway to Heathrow!
My big ride at Navan tomorrow is Vautour in the beginners chase. He is five from five for Willie and, like Faugheen, was terrific at Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring.
His schooling has been excellent and I am particularly looking forward to renewing acquaintances on the racecourse. He is what he is, a cracking horse, and I just love him.
I’m on Dogora in the Troytown, but this is a real lottery and you could hardly describe the five-year-old as well handicapped.
I have a couple for Tony Martin and, you’d imagine, Gallant Oscar, in a handicap hurdle, should prove the best of them.
We won a length and three parts at Navan last time and he went up 11lbs for that. It is a fair old hike, but he should certainly come on for the outing.
Willie has a number of runners at Gowran Park today and I’ll be more than surprised should he fail to figure among the winners.
He starts with a French-import, Buiseness Sivola, in the three-year-old hurdle and he is definitely going well enough at home to score.
Tell Us More will be hard to beat in a maiden hurdle. He came to Willie’s with the reputation of being a good horse and has done nothing to prove otherwise.
Douvan, another from France, has his first pop for Willie in a novice hurdle and he will be competitive. This is a big, gorgeous horse, who is going to be some machine when filling out his frame.
Ballycasey is yet another who has serious prospects, in a conditions chase, while I propose napping Don Poli in the beginners chase.
There is little flash about Don Poli and you’d have to love the way he saves everything for the racecourse.
Hurricane Fly did us proud at Punchestown last Sunday, when turning over Jezki in the Morgiana Hurdle.
I wasn’t overly optimistic about him here last week, but should have known better than to underestimate a horse who is a real warrior. He proved one more time that class is permanent.
We won with some nice horses this week, headed by Shaneshill at Fairyhouse on Wednesday.
He jumped superbly, it was a lovely display and just what he wanted. We hope it is the start of far better to come.
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