Champion's Day is round the corner
People talking through their pocket can be the most dangerous… Champions Day is coming up and I think it’s good that the season now ends in one defining day. If Gleneagles doesn’t run then Solow is the biggest certainty walking out on to the track. Jack Hobbs and Muhaarar should both win as well.
There’s a lot of talk about Kieren Fallon in the news. I think he’s a very likeable person and he has been a brilliant jockey with absolute nerves of steel, but I think he’s a troubled soul at the moment. He’s obviously finding it tough, but I think he’s earned the right to make his own decisions and he shouldn’t be bullied into retirement.
While we’re on the subject of jockeys, I just want to talk about the attack on Aidan Coleman at Southwell recently. Whoever attacked him, they’re just lucky that it wasn’t a few of the lads that I rode with in the past! You’d have to be a brave man to attack some of them – the likes of Jason Titley. There’s no doubt a few of the lads would have had a go back and I wouldn’t have been shy about it either, truth be told. Mick Fitzgerald would have been another one. I wouldn’t have liked to have been the one attacking him!
I had a similar incident at Worcester in my final year. I’m pretty easy going but it’s hard to keep your cool. There are going to be times when people are going to have a go, especially in sports that involve gambling. People talking through their pocket can be the most dangerous. When you’ve done your best, you shouldn’t let anybody bother you and, being a jockey, when it didn’t go well I didn’t need anybody telling me it didn’t go well – I knew myself. The last thing you need is somebody abusing you. In the heat of the moment I wanted to get off the horse and retaliate, but you have to control your temper at times like that. I think all good sports people have a temper and a killer instinct. You need to have a bit of nastiness in there and fire in the belly and when people are attacking you, it’s not easy. On a more pleasant note, I went to my film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Credit to Nick Ryle and Anthony Wonke, who directed and produced it, because they managed to put it together so it’s watchable for people that are not interested in racing. It was well received at the premiere, so that was nice. Everyone said they enjoyed it, but I suppose they would say that to me. My wife met a few celebrities. Tom Hardy or somebody? Whoever he is.
Recently, I played at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and it was a great experience playing with the pros. I was good to play with the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Dornan, who I’m sure my wife would have liked to meet. It really shows the difference between amateur sportsmen and professional sportsmen. It’s embarrassing how bad some of us are compared to professional golfers. I missed the cut, which was a bit disappointing, but hopefully I’ll do better next year. You do feel the pressure though. It’s crazy that I’ve ridden in front of thousands of people and whilst I might have got butterflies and got excited, it never really bothered me. I was never nervous on the back of a horse doing nearly 40mph with 25 other runners, and yet I’m standing over a five foot putt by myself and can feel myself shaking. It was a great experience though. Definitely the most exciting thing I’ve done since I retired.
The Jumps Season is starting to kick into full swing and the new Triple Crown is a good idea. I think there are only four horses that can win it, as there are only four with the speed to win at Haydock and Kempton that will have a chance in the Gold Cup. I would say Vautour, Coneygree, Don Cossack and Djakadam. I like Don Poli for the Gold Cup, but I doubt he’d have the speed for a William Hill King George. A million pounds is worth going for in any man’s book and if I had one of those horses I’d be going for it.
I see The New One is back out on Sunday in the williamhill.com Hurdle at Kempton. He’s a very good horse, but has the chance of him winning a Champion Hurdle passed him by? Faugheen is going to be the one to beat again, you’ve got My Tent Or Yours coming back and there’ll be improving horses as well – Peace And Co, who won the Triumph, for example. I’d be surprised if The New One won a Champion Hurdle, but I’ve been surprised before. I was a little sad to see that the Rooneys have taken their horses away from Donald McCain. I’ve ridden a lot of winners for both of them and whilst Donald has done very well in a short space of time, the Rooneys are entitled to their opinion. I always think that the owners work hard to have racehorses as a hobby and their hobby should be enjoyable. If they’re not getting the enjoyment that they once had, then maybe it’s time to move on. Donald McCain will keep going and so will the Rooneys. The William Hill Jumps coupon launches soon and I’ve already got a few JP McManus runners on the shortlist:
- Alvisio Ville started off last winter winning a Maiden Hurdle for Willie Mullins. He looked the bee’s knees at that point, but was a little disappointing at Cheltenham. I think he could be a star chaser and he’s one that everyone should keep an eye on. I’d be very surprised if he’s not up to being top drawer.
- The second one I’m going to include is another Novice Chaser – Gordon Elliott’s Free Expression. He had a few niggly problems last year, but I know Gordon Elliott really rates him. I think he’s another one that could go to the top.
- The third one is Yanworth from the Alan King yard. He was fourth in the Cheltenham Bumper and I think he’s going to make a really smart Novice Hurdler. I think he’ll probably be a Neptune or maybe an Albert Bartlett horse. Either way, I think he’s a Novice Hurdler to follow this winter.