It is Kelso’s big day in the limelight this Saturday with the ITV cameras heading to the Borders, and I have an exciting book of four rides.
Before we get stuck into those, it was fantastic to win the Eider Chase at Newcastle last week on Win My Wings. It was a great half an hour for Christian Williams and a great win for me. It was a last minute booking and once I met the owners at the races, they said they were fans of mine and were quite happy for me to be riding the horse.
I had spoken to Nick Scholfield who had won on her a couple of runs before and I spoke to Christian and they both were great in giving me enough information that I knew enough about the horse. They had her primed and ready, she jumped and travelled and never missed a beat and saw the four mile trip out well. It was a lovely spare to get.
My first ride of the day at Kelso on Saturday is Democratic Oath in the 2.05 on ITV. All is well with him now. He had a good first run of the season over fences when he was 11lb wrong and God knows what happened last time. We decided it is too late to go novice chasing with him now, so he is going back over hurdles. He seems well in himself at home, it is a very competitive race but hopefully he can go and run a big race. He is being aimed at the Scottish Grand National meeting for a race there, so this is kind of a prep run as he’s been off for a while but hopefully he can go and run a nice race.
In the Premier Chase at 2.40, I ride an old favourite in Dingo Dollar. He ran a cracking race in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in November, it really was. I warned connections then we were getting into the realms of running him on soft ground which he doesn’t like. A couple of bad runs in that and he could be too low to get into the Grand National and that’s what his target is. We held off so he has his mark now for Aintree and we can go to war with him, so this will be his prep run for April. He is well at home.
My wife rides him out every morning and assures me he is well. I schooled him this morning (Thursday) and we can hope he goes and runs a nice solid race. We’re not expecting anything exciting as it is a very competitive race with Kim Bailey having a 160 rated horse (Espoir de Romay) in there who will take a lot of beating. We want a nice safe round, and his next race is the main target.
This is the same race Aurora’s Encore ran in before National glory in 2013 and this Premier Chase lines up perfectly for Aintree so all being well Dingo Dollar should get there with the right preparation.
I don’t have a ride in the Morebattle Hurdle, but I would love to ride Buveur D’Air even though I don’t fancy him to win this weekend. He has a lot of weight and giving it away to some good younger horses, but he is a Champion Hurdle winner and it would be fantastic to have a spin on him.
It is a great race for Kelso to have on and will have people watching it from all over the place with some serious horses in it.
Back to my rides and I’m on Seemorelights in the 3.43 who won two runs back at Ayr. He is quite a tricky horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and he always does everything 100 miles an hour at home, and he is the same at the racecourse. We thought he always wanted three miles, but he wasn’t getting home so I said we would drop him back to two miles and heavy ground which he needs. He won nicely at Ayr and ran really well carrying a lot of weight last time, so hopefully Kelso will suit him as he has good course form and I am hoping for a really nice run from him. He is slightly up in grade but I feel he has a lot of ability. The only problem is the ground as I don’t think it will be soft enough for him, but we’ve got to take our chance.
In the lucky last, I ride Fourth Of July who won this race twelve months ago. He is coming in here as a fresh horse which may count against him. He is usually best off a couple of runs as he can be quite stuffy, and can need the run. No doubt though Mike Smith will have him in tip-top shape and goes there with a realistic chance. But I think he is a spring/summer type of horse and I think that is what he is gearing up for again. We’re hopeful for a good run but he may well come on for it.
A couple of horses that I am looking forward to this spring are Empire Steel and Doyen Breed.
It was great to ride Empire Steel back to victory at his favourite track at Kelso a few weeks ago. He was pulled up at Haydock in the Peter Marsh when I was out injured so I told Brian Hughes he clearly doesn’t get on with the horse and to leave me to ride it!!
He ran a hell of a race to win here and it was never really in doubt. Let’s not be mistaken this horse has a hell of a lot of ability and I’m sure in the not-too-distant future he will be rated up into the 150s. Where we go next is the problem when we have a horse rated what he is. I would be keen to go to the Ultima at Cheltenham but there is talk of the Scottish National and the likes. It is a nice problem to have and he is a horse with a lot of ability. He has been very young and immature and with another summer on his back he will be an even nicer horse next year and we’ll be looking at graded races.
Doyen Breed is a very different type of horse. You could run him every week as he takes his racing and his training well and is a really hardy type. The only thing he doesn’t like is soft ground, so it was a really good effort at Ascot (second in the Reynoldstown) as it was heavy ground and he didn’t travel for a circuit. I genuinely thought we were going to pull up passing the stands, but he got going down the hill and grinded it out so it was a really good performance.
I stressed to Sandy (Thomson) that I wanted to look after him this year because we didn’t think he’d make a chaser after a bad schooling session at the beginning of the year. But we found a nice race for him and he’s improved all year from there. Sandy has said “We will go for the Scottish National or a big handicap” but I was quick to tell him we should leave him in novice company and keep educating him as that should help him towards next year, keeping him in nice races and good experiences.
I’m not sure where he will go next as the original plan was to go for a three-mile novice handicap chase at Ayr in April, but I’m not 100% sure now. Whatever he does is a bonus and, like Empire Steel, I hope he will be in the 150’s next year.