- March 13, 2015
13th March 2015
Magical Festival winner and all credit to Simon Claisse
It was magic to ride a winner at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday. Everyone goes there with high hopes and the Irish come over with such a strong team. The racing is so competitive and it really makes your year if you can get on the score sheet. I was so lucky to ride a winner. It’s been three years since I rode Hunt Ball and its great to experience it once again.
Paul Nicholls told me on Sunday that I would be riding Qualando, who won at Exeter in February, and I was quite excited, as I knew it would be my best chance going into the Festival. I was suspended on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and all I could think about was the race. It probably wrecked my head thinking about it for three days!
I was quietly confident but he was a 20-1 shot and Paul had other runners. It doesn’t always come off how you imagine it will but this time it did. The whole way round I was in a position I wanted to be in, he jumped really well and he stuck his head out gamely. He’ll be a chaser in time and he’ll go on to bigger and better things.
His owner Kathy Stuart has always been really supportive and she gave me my first graded winner at Newbury on New Little Bric a few years ago. This was her first Cheltenham winner so it was lovely for her too.
It was great for Paul to train a treble with Dodging Bullets winning the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and Aux Ptits Soins the Coral Cup. Everyone was raving about Willie Mullins on Tuesday, and it was great for the British to win, although without a doubt the meeting wouldn’t be the same without the Irish input.
I did a racecourse gallop on Aux Ptits Soins and he felt like a machine then. It’s nice sometimes to get it right as he was an unknown quantity and to win a competitive handicap on his third start is fantastic.
We still have one day to go and I ride a horse in the Triumph Hurdle for Jeremy Kyle and the Stewart family called Old Guard. Its Jeremy Kyle’s first runner at the Festival and its nice to be riding for him. He’s a top chap and he helps me out with my relationship problems quite regularly so it would be great to ride a winner for him. My other rides all got balloted out so they all go to Kempton on Saturday, which is like a Festival consolation day, where I’ll be quite busy.
I’ve changed my mind at least five times about the Gold Cup winner but I think I’ll stick with Silviniaco Conti as I am a big fan, although it’s a wide open race and a very good renewal. There’s some rain coming tomorrow, which could benefit some horses.
Apart from riding a winner, the other highlights for me were Faugheen winning the Stan James Champion Hurdle and Vautour who beat some very good horses in the JLT Novices’ Chase. I think we’ve seen a future Gold Cup winner in him.
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse deserves a lot of credit as he’s produced absolutely perfect jumping ground and I think the BHA has done a terrific job with the starts which have been much better this year with the exception of the bumper. But this was no one’s fault and just a case of keen young horses wanting to get on with it. It’s been a great week for the sport and the Festival just keeps getting better.