01st December 2017

A weekend of racing to savour

This weekend the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy) takes centre stage on a great few days of racing which starts today with the return of Thistlecrack in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle. He’s back over hurdles today as a pipe opener for Boxing Day’s King George which he won so brilliantly last season.

He’ll face Unowhatimeanharry who has been incredible since he joined Harry Fry, winning ten of his 11 starts including at Exeter at its Super Sunday meeting in 2016. He looked as good as ever on his Aintree come back this season and has the advantage of race fitness over. It’ll be a real treat for racegoers with the two best staying hurdlers in action and a race to enjoy with Thistlecrack potentially running against Bristol De Mai, the highest rated horse currently in training, and Might Bite in the King George on Boxing Day.

The Ladbroke’s Trophy is an intriguing race and I think there will be a lot of interest in the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall who landed a Limerick gamble on his debut for the Irish genius.

It would be fantastic for racing if Bryony Frost won on Present Man. She’s riding the crest of the wave at the moment, and she’s as good as any jockey riding today. She’s a fellow Devonian too, and has had a similar path to me into racing, gaining plenty of experience in point-to-points before riding under rules. And like my late father Philip, her dad Jimmy was a true horseman in a race, and no doubt he gives her plenty of advice today.

The pressure can potentially get to you and she’s getting plenty of press coverage, but the one thing with horses is that they are the greatest leveler of all and if you don’t keep a level head, they’ll soon pick up on it. Whatever race you’re riding in, whether it’s a Grand National or a handicap hurdle, you have to focus on the job in hand to give your horse the best possible chance in the race and if you start to think too much about it, it can all start to unravel. If Bryony comes home in front tomorrow, it’ll be the best result for racing.

I’m at Doncaster today where I ride Enniscoffey Oscar for Emma Lavelle. He ran a decent race at Kempton a couple of weeks ago to finish third in a 2m5f novices’ hurdle and I hope he will go well again today.

The Clydesdales were in action at Exeter last Sunday and it was great to be a part of the day. It really helps open up racing to a much wider audience and riding them is a lot of fun. The bookies supported the race by donating every penny they took to the Devon Air Ambulance, and Bryony, who won on Siryl, topped it all off with a brilliant Frankie Dettori –style flying dismount.