JESSICA HARRINGTON: It’s Cheltenham here we come as trio get the all clear

RAINED OFF: Not being able to run Steps To Freedom in the Imperial Cup  is  very frustrating. Picture: INPHO

Three days to go to Cheltenham now and the excitement is mounting.

I was talking to Jim Wilson, who lives beside the track, and he said that they had 10mm of rain yesterday to make the going soft. There has been a lot of rain at home and there is more expected in the UK over the weekend, so even if they get that cold spell they’re predicting on Monday, it will be soft on Tuesday.

We have finalised our team for the festival, which will be three: Jezki, Bostons Angel and Jetson. I will be discussing their prospects in more detail next week but suffice to say they are all in good form.

They scoped clear yesterday morning and will travel over today. Then it’s up to Bubba – my travelling head lad, Niall Amond – to make sure they get to the start safe and sound.

Oscars Well just wasn’t 100% this week so we pulled him out of the Jewson. It’s a pity as yesterday he seemed to be coming back to himself a bit. But we took the view that it was the right thing to do at the time. Hopefully we’ll see him at Fairyhouse and Punchestown.

The return of the rain has been really depressing. That applies to the trio going to Cheltenham but, at least, they will have fresh ground and have proven they can handle soft ground. I have so many horses that are waiting for good ground back home though and are in need of a run - in particular some really nice bumper horses.

I had plenty of entries for the weekend in anticipation of the better going but once the rain came, I didn’t even bother declaring anything. So at this stage, my next runner will be Jezki in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. And sure that’s one worth waiting for.

Steps To Freedom not going for the Imperial Cup at Sandown is very frustrating, however. If the race had been on Wednesday he would have run. They were expecting 1-3mm of rain Wednesday night. They got 6mm. Then they got 10mm on Thursday night.

I had promised myself that I would not run him again on any ground that had ‘soft’ in the description. There’s just no point. It is so disappointing as he’s in such good form but we’ll find some other races for him – dare I say it, if the ground is right.

Operating won very readily in at Leopardstown last Sunday and he is bound now for Fairyhouse and Punchestown. Everything he does this year is a bonus, as he looks a natural chaser. He will jump fences early, actually - probably in September - for the simple reason that he needs good ground. So it won’t be the traditional route of waiting until the end of October.

I was delighted with him last week and he is improving all the time. The ground is crucial to him but he’s a big horse who is only growing into himself now and I’m looking forward to him showing up well at the two Irish festivals.

Gimli’s Rock wouldn’t go in the ground while Takeyourcapoff ran well to a point. Citizenship probably ran too well as he wasn’t dropped at all by the handicapper. He was there again jumping the last, as he was in the Boylesports Hurdle. I don’t know if he’s becoming a bit of a monkey.

Smithfield struggled with the ground too at Clonmel but the big lesson I learned was that he doesn’t come downhill. He needs a flat track.

I should have known that already mind you. When he came first, I rode him myself and said to Eamonn Leigh, my head lad: “This lad is not going to go down a hill”. But he improved so much I forgot about that. Thursday confirmed my initial belief.

In other news, Bob Le Beau came back from Dubai yesterday.

It was an interesting exercise and I will know more about it if we go again. I would sort my races better beforehand and take a horse with a slightly higher rating. He would need to be sound as the ground is very quick over there. No chance of that happening here.

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