- January 8, 2016
08th January 2016
Happy New Year from Nick Scholfield
Happy New Year! January is renowned for being cold and wet – it has definitely been very wet and there’s cold weather next week. It was fantastic that Exeter went ahead with its meeting on New Year’s Day. Trainers and jockeys were well aware of what the ground would be like and it’s a big pat on the back to Barry Johnson and the ground staff for putting it on. Every single person in the weighing room was delighted to be racing.
It was a very good day with two stand out horses winning - Mr Paul Barber’s Emerging Talent and Harry Fry’s lovely mare Activial who won a grade one in Ireland last year.
In January you always expect bad weather and abandonments. Paul Nicholls tends to use this time of year to give his horses their flue jabs and a bit of a break but its all systems go now for Saturday and the re-scheduled Welsh National meeting at Chepstow. Unfortunately Wincanton on the same day has been abandoned which is a great shame. The Welsh National is now early on in the card which should work well with the rain due to come later in the afternoon.
I have two very nice rides for Paul in the big races. In the Grade One Future Champions Finale Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle I ride Adrien Du Pont who came second at Cheltenham last time and has won before at Chepstow. I schooled him on Monday and he’s a very nice horse. It will be hard work on the ground but I think he will handle the conditions having won at Enghein on very soft ground. It will be whichever four-year-old handles the conditions best, as I am sure it will be very soft.
In the Coral Welsh National I ride Benvolio who was beaten a short head in last year’s race by Emperor’s Choice. He races off the same weight as last year and with two prep runs under his belt he should be about right. He’ll love the conditions and he’s stay all day. He’s fresh and well and went hunting the other day, which he enjoyed very much. I am looking forward to riding him.
AP’s knighthood is well deserved although I am not sure any of his former weighing room friends will be calling him Sir. It was not unexpected by any of us as he has achieved so much. Richard Johnson has taken over AP’s mantle, as expected, and everyone has got fully behind him to give him his first champion jockey title. He reached 3,000 winners the other day but none of us really knew about it in the weighing room, as he didn’t mention a word. He’s a very humble gentleman and a lovely person.
Willie Mullins has massive ammunition and a lot of favourites as we head towards the Festival and I have no doubt he will get double figures but more credit should be given to British trainers like Phillip Hobbs, who is having a great season, and Paul Nicholls who is still clear at the head of the championship. He is over the £1million marker and sooner or later he will be in full throttle again.