As regular readers know, Nicky and I are friends for many years and I stay with him at Lambourn during the festival. It’s an ideal base and while he is invariably even more involved in proceedings than I am, we can unwind and relax when we return from the racing.
We always have a party and that party took place last night after a truly historic day for Nicky when he trained four winners, becoming the first trainer to hit four in one day. As well as that, he set a new mark as the most successful handler ever at the festival, bringing his tally to 44 when Une Artiste won the Fred Winter from Edeymi and Davy Russell. The previous record was set by Fulke Walwyn and I know it means a lot to Nicky to surpass the figure set by such a legend of the game.
Much like Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig did as was expected when winning the Neptune comfortably, and Bob’s Worth really stuck his neck out when denying Davy again, this time on First Lieutenantn in the RSA Chase.
There was plenty of controversy surrounding the Champion Chase and from our vantage point, it was hard to make out what happened and what effect it had on the race. It was certainly far from ideal that they had to swerve like that.
I know Andrew Lynch has apparently said it cost him the race but Michael Buckley, the owner of Finian’s Rainbow who has Mystic Desire with me, said that it was always the plan for Barry to come as late as possible. He really finished it out strongly as well.
Barry nearly had a fourth winner himself but Patrick and Willie Mullins combined to deny him in the Champion Bumper. Champagne Fever was very brave, leading from start to finish and it was a much needed winner for the Irish, only the second of the meeting.
It’s a fair drop on last year, when we ended with 13. You’ve got to say that the horses, by and large, haven’t been good enough, while in a couple of instances, luck might have deserted them. Last year, we got plenty of luck and that’s just how racing is.
Jezki ran a good enough race. He was very free at the start but Robbie was generally happy to be tracking Barry. Being so free cost him when the taps were turned on and he faded a little at the end to be eighth. We’ll see how he is, but the likelihood is that he will head for the field now after a good year.
I am very disappointed that Jetson didn’t get into the Pertemps Hurdle. He was in good form and I was confident he’d make it, but he was four off it. It’s very disappointing because had he made it, he would have been off a very good mark and running in favourable conditions. He will take in Fairyhouse and Punchestown now.
As for today, it probably makes sense to stick with the Nicky Henderson yard, doesn’t it? That means Solix can’t be discounted although Sir Des Champs, For Non Stop and Peddlers Cross are significant threats in the Jewson. You’d have to think the latter will be hard to beat, having been second in the Champion Hurdle last year. Donald McCain’s horses are also going well.
The Ryanair Chase looks very competitive indeed. Albertas Run has won it the last two years so he has to be on any shortlist. Captain Chris and Forpadydeplasterer are former Arkle winners, with Captain Chris beating Finian’s Rainbow last year. Poquelin and Somersby are two others that have to be considered but Riverside Theatre was very impressive on his comeback in Ascot, winning easily after a full year out of action. He’s the one for me to hopefully make it three naps out of three.
The World Hurdle will always be the Stayers’ Hurdle to me and it has the makings of a very interesting race. With two of the hotpot champions having already been beaten, I’m beginning to think that the same might happen to Big Buck’s.
The Irish have a good challenge in Thousand Stars, Voler La Vedette, So Young and Mourad but Oscar Whisky finished fourth in last year’s Champon Hurdle. He has bundles of class and Nicky is confident that he will stay the three miles.
If he does, this could be the day that Big Buck’s run – which currently stands at 15 successive wins – comes to an end.