06th January 2017

New Year off to a cracking start

The New Year is well under way and it’s nice to have ridden a winner to get 2017 off to a good start with Shimba Hills scoring for Lawney Hill at Plumpton on Monday.

It was also lovely to win on Ellen’s Way at Warwick last Saturday for Jeremy Scott and the Bet The Farm syndicate. She’s a super, straightforward mare and hopefully she will win a few more.

There’s a good weekend of racing coming up with Sandown Park and Wincanton tomorrow. Wincanton includes televised coverage of the Bathwick Tyres Poole Handicap Hurdle and the Bathwick Tyres Yeovil Handicap Chase, a listed race where I’m likely to be on Favorito Buck’s for Paul Nicholls. He’s having his first start over fences and we’re hoping it will bring out what he shows at home. I’ve schooled him and he jumps well at home.

There’s an excellent card at Sandown Park where the features is the Grade One 32Red Tolworth Hurdle. I was lucky enough to win the race three years ago on Melodic Rendezvous. This year’s renewal looks to be between Capitaine who was impressive at Ascot last time, and Colin Tizzard’s horse Finian’s Oscar, the easy winner of a novice hurdle at Hereford last month.

Also on the card is the final of the 2016 veterans chase series – a £100,000 race that has attracted 19 runners.

It’s such a good concept for old stagers who are all aged 11 or older and since its inception it that has really taken off, not least because the winning connections will receive a cheque for £61,900. It looks like Dynaste, who won the 2015 Grade One Ryanair Chase at the Festival will head the betting

Paul has a couple of good chances, too, with recent course winner Rocky Creek and stablemate Aerial who won the Southern National at Fontwell back in November. Colin Tizzard saddles Theatrical Star who runs in the same colours worn by Welsh National and Hennessy victor Native River.

I caught up with ITV’s New Year’s Day coverage and it was a promising start. I really enjoyed the features and Luke Harvey, AP McCoy and Ed Chamberlain’s banter was great. It had good viewing figures and hopefully it will encourage more people into racing. It’s an exciting era and I think we should all embrace it as it won’t harm our sport and will only help. We are so lucky that racing gets the coverage it does with other equestrian disciplines barely getting a look in.

I was at Exeter on New Year’s Day where there was a huge crowd and some great racing with Neon Wolf’s novice hurdle win the standout performance.

Hats off to Lizzie Kelly and her family for producing two very good winners with Coo Star Sivola and Agrapart.

William Twiston-Davis also got his name back in the headlines following his win on Cogry at Cheltenham. He’s ridden plenty of winners on the Flat, but at 6ft, the weight will always be a struggle so the Flat’s loss is jump racing’s gain.