"It's less than two weeks until Cheltenham and I haven't written a blog for a long long time... Well, here goes!
So it finally looks like the weather is taking a turn for the better just in time for Cheltenham. It's just been such a wet - and in recent months, snowy - winter that it has played havoc with the racing calendar. This has led to small fields because of the very bad/wet/heavy ground we've been racing on, when racing has actually gone ahead.
The season has been a very difficult one for a lot of jockeys - including myself - who don't have a regular flow of rides. Small fields has meant not very many spear rides to be had and a lot of jockeys fighting for the few there are. I am one of the lucky ones to have such a great sponsor in mayiclaim.co.uk - without whom I would be finding things very difficult. Here's to the season lasting a bit longer as trainers/owners keep their horses in for a little longer in search of a bit better ground in the coming months.
Enough ranting and back to important matters - the Cheltenham Festival, the most exciting and enthralling four days of racing every year, and this year will be no exception. Yet again the Henderson, Nicholls and Mullins camps are very strong, with Henderson coming out just on top, but that's what makes it so exciting! Will that be the case at the end of the week? Who can be certain, but I'm saying yes. He has so many superstars in his ranks - Simonig, Sprinter Sacre, Bobs Worth, Long Run and My Tent Or Yours just to name a few.
I have one Festival ride that I am very much looking forward this year - probably because it will be my only one! (Hehe, fingers crossed that's not the case) - on a horse called Monkerty Tunkerty. 'Monkey' as he's know by his trainer Jess Westwood has given me two great wins this season. Having won a quite competitive Veterans Chase at Doncaster last week, he has booked himself a place in the JTL Speciality Chase on the first day of The Festival. Jess has done a fantastic job with this horse all season and as it's her only horse, what an achievement it is just getting him there. Now it's my job to hopefully get him in the frame.
On a lighter note there is a new pub open in Stow-on-the-Wold not far from Cheltenham) called The Bell at Stow. Myself and a lot of the boys from the weighing room have been enjoying some really good nights in there recently. The food is amazing and with live music on every night of The Festival, I think it just might be the place to be after racing. Fingers crossed I might see you in there if Monkey wins!
William Kennedy's prize possession - a painting of him racing against the great Kauto Star
Well the Flat season is coming to a close and the National Hunt season is just warming up. And what a fantastic climax to the Flat season it was, watching Frankel winning his 14th race and retiring to stud unbeaten. He was just an amazing horse. I was lucky enough to see him at Royal Ascot this year and for me he is definitely the best I've seen in my lifetime.
Only 10 days after the retirement of one the greatest Flat horses we've ever seen, this morning brought the news that Kauto Star - one of the greatest jump horses of all time - has been retired too. He was a phenomenal racehorse who did so much for the sport of National Hunt racing. Kauto just oozed class and, although he did make the odd heart-stopping mistake, he was on the whole a magnificent jumper with an amazing amount of scope. He is definitely one of the horses I would have loved to have had the opportunity to have ridden.
I have a painting up in my living room of me on Time For Rupert jumping a fence upsides Kauto down the back straight in Haydock last season, with Long Run in third. This is one of my prized possessions and just shows the scope that this horse had. His achievements on the racecourse were second to none and it is great to see him retire a healthy horse. Kauto, you deserve a very happy retirement.
It's been a very long summer - well, if you can call it that - and I am very much itching to get going now. The last couple of weeks have picked up for me, with rides nearly every day, and I'm extremely busy riding out in the mornings, driving all over the country to school horses trying to secure some nice rides for the winter. This is where I am so lucky to have such a fantastic sponsor in Paul Reason and his company Mayiclaim who supply me with my car and whom without would definitely make my job a struggle.
As I have written in previous blogs, I have struck up a great partnership with Mick Channon - and fingers crossed we can keep our very good start to the season up throughout the winter months. Mick, who is predominantly a Flat trainer, has taken over from Henrietta Knight and is going to have around 20 jumpers for the coming season and will be where I will be focusing most of my time, riding out there Tuesdays and Fridays. Other trainers I will be riding for are Violet Jordan, Alex Hales, John Berry and pretty much anyone else that wants me! Have saddle, will travel.
I also said in previous blogs that I'd give you some horses to look out for over the coming season. Well I'm very much looking forward to this coming weekend where I'll be riding two horses I hope will provide me with a couple of wins through the season. First is a novice chaser call Ballypatrick, who runs at Ascot on Saturday. He's having his first run over fences and looks like he's going to make into a lover chaser. The second is a little mare that John Berry trains called Ethics Girl that runs at Huntingdon on Sunday. She was above average on the Flat and took really well to hurdling on her debut at Fakenham a couple of weeks ago, so I am hoping it won't be to long before she will be winning. I am hoping to pick up a few more rides over the weekend but there's two for you to keep an eye on.
So until such time, wrap up warm because the mornings are definitely getting colder.
Well I've had a very quiet summer, hence not a lot of blogging! I've just come back from Spain where I had a five day holiday with family. It was very relaxed, and it was just nice to see them all. The weather was beautiful and sleeping on a sun lounger all day has definitely helped recharge the batteries.
All the yards I ride for are starting to get their horses in for the coming season and, although I'm still pretty quiet in terms of racing, things are starting to pick up with riding out. It's great to see all the horses coming back and even better to see some new faces that I can look forward to riding this coming season.
As I wrote in my last blog, I was sad when trainer Henrietta Knight announced her retirement. I had the privilege of riding for Hen during the last couple of seasons - she was great to ride for and I feel very lucky to have ridden a few winners for such a legend of our game -most memorably on Harvest Song for The Queen at Fontwell. Mick Channon will now take over the training of most of the horses Hen had last season. I already ride most of Mick's jump horses and, although he is predominately a flat trainer, he will hopefully have a nice string of jumpers for the forthcoming season and therefore getting in there a few mornings a week will be my main focus.
Nothing too exciting to report in today's blog, but hopefully by the time I write my next one the horses will be doing more and maybe some of the new faces I mentioned might be showing something exciting and I will be able to give you a few names to look out for over the coming months.
I am writing this blog on a lovely Monday morning - I rode out first thing and got completely soaked right through. Not the kind of weather you expect to get in June.
Our new season is well into stride now. Although the proper jumps horses won't be seen till October/November time, there is plenty of summer racing on at the moment. I finished last season on 25 winners from 274 rides - and the most winners I rode for an individual trainer was four. It wasn't a bad total but nowhere near what I was aiming for, which means a lot more hard work to be done in the coming season. I'm really looking forward to it.
Just a couple of weeks ago came the sad news that Henrietta Knight was retiring from training. I've been very lucky to have had the pleasure of riding for Hen over the last couple of seasons, and she provided me with a very memorable day in 2010 when I was fortunate enough to ride a winner for her and The Queen. It was definitely an honour to have rode a winner in those colours. Hen had her last two runners at Fontwell last weekend and is now going to start on various new ventures. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her and Terry for all their help and wish them the very best of luck for the future.
The Flat season is in full flow, with Camelot a very impressive winner of The Derby. Royal Ascot is just around the corner, and there will be a very international feel to the week with horses from all over the world - and none more exciting than Black Caviar. The mare has run 21 times and is unbeaten, and she's due to run in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on June 23 - definitely a race not to be missed! I might take a social trip to Royal Ascot for one or two days, hopefully the weather will clear up a bit and it will be fun. You should try to come along if you can, it will be a great day out.
It's been a while since my last blog, with Cheltenham and Aintree both been and gone. I only had the one ride at the Cheltenham's Festival, and unfortunately it was the slowest run race of the week. This was not ideal for me, so I had to settle for ninth place. I guess I'm going to have to wait till next year for my first Festival winner. It was a great week, with the highlight for me being Synchronised winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup. His owner JP McManus puts so much into racing so it was great to see him win this race for the first time. Other highlights were watching Big Buck's win his fourth World Hurdle, and watching Noel Fehily - one of the nicest guys in the weighing room - win the Champion Hurdle.
Then last weekend was Aintree, again Big Buck's was awesome on the Thursday winning the Liverpool Hurdle and making it his 17th win in succession. He is definitely one of the best jump horses we've ever seen in training. On the Friday I had my fourth attempt at the National fences in the John Smith's Topham Chase and for the first time I got round! It is such a thrill riding over those fences and my horse gave me a great ride, jumping from fence to fence. I think we both really enjoyed it.
Then onto Saturday and the Grand National itself. Unfortunately the race has been marred by a couple of accidents (see news story here) which was such a shame as it was the closest finish I have seen to the race ever. It was an amazing spectacle to see two horses fight out such a close finish after four and a half miles. Both Neptune Collonges (1st) and Sunnyhillboy (2nd) deserve so much more credit for their efforts than they are getting, because people are letting other issues take away from what a great race it was.
On a much happier note, between Cheltenham and Aintree we had The Lesters. For anyone that doesn't know, these are the Jockeys' awards, and the evening was held in the Hilton in Birmingham on 5 April. I like to take my sponsors every year from mayiclaim.co.uk as my way of thanking them for their kind support throughout the season, and I think yet again they all had a good night. With no racing the next day, it gives all of us the chance to relax, enjoy the evening and let our hair down a little. So many stories, so little time!
Hopefully it won't be so long till my next blog, and hopefully I'll have some winners along the way.
After what was a very quiet February, first due to my whip ban and then the horrible cold weather we had, I'm glad to say that March has started much better.
Four in a week
I have had four winners in the last week. This good spell started with a winner for predominantly flat trainer Mick Channon, who was having his first jumps winner for around twelve years. My luck continued last Saturday with a winner on my first ride Tim Vaughan - a trainer going places fast - on a horse owned by JP McManus. It's alway very special to wear his green and gold colours.
Then on Wednesday I had a double for trainer Violet Jordan. It was a really great day for Vi and the whole team. Vi took over the licence from her husband Frank, who we lost last year. Frank was a true gentleman and is still sadly missed by all who were close to him, and I know he was definitely looking down on us the other day.
Will Kauto be the star of Cheltenham?
With Cheltenham only a matter of hours away, everyone in the National Hunt racing world is getting very excited. I have just got home from Wincanton - unfortunately no luck for me today but there was a big crowd there to see Kauto Star go for a racecourse gallop, after what was a horrible scare when he had a fall schooling last week. This was not just a scare for the Kauto team but for the whole racing world, as it would be such a shame not to see him line up in the Gold Cup after what has been an amazing season for the great horse. Reports from the gallop were good so fingers crossed he'll be there next Friday.
Lining up on Swincombe Flame
At the moment, I have just got the one ride booked at the Festival. It's on the mare I won the Lanzarote Hurdle on back in January, Swincombe Flame. She runs on Tuesday in the Mares' Race. We have a tough task ahead of us with Quevega, the winner of the last three runnings of the race lining up again, but Swincombe is definitely improving and I am hoping for a big run from her. With a bit of luck on our side, you never know. The Cheltenham Festival is such an amazing four days racing, with the best jumps horses in the world taking part. The atmosphere on track is amazing and when the roar that goes up as the starter lets the horses go for the first race of the meeting, the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up. Get yourself along and maybe see you there.
"Hi everyone, hope you've all been wrapping up warm over the last few week in this very cold snap we've been having. Don't know about all of you, but this weather has been causing havoc with racing and even just getting the horses out for their daily exercise.
Firstly the weather was working in my favour. I was banned when the cold snap started, so this meant that when the first few meetings were called off, I wasn't losing out on rides - a little plus side to the bad weather. But this plus side didn't last long as on my first day back I had three rides booked for Sandown on 4 February but the weather put pay to that meeting too and there hasn't been a meeting since.
Fit to ride
In these last few week I've been keeping myself busy by riding out every morning, getting into some trainer's yards that I find it hard to get into regularly as they're not near me. I have also been going to the gym in Oaksey House, Lambourn every day. I'm very keen on my fitness and I think it is a massive part of being a jockey. Not only do you have to be very fit to ride a horse in a race but your fitness can help too with preventing and returning from injury, which is unfortunately part and parcel of our game.
No racing, no income
With jockeys being self employed, when racing is off because of the weather like it has been, it really affects our livelihood. If we can't ride we make no money, so let's hope they've got the weather forecast right and we are over the worst of it now. I'm really looking forward to getting back into the swing of things this week and getting back to earning some money."
Hello everybody. Right! We are well into the new year now so I hope you all have been keeping to your new year's resolutions. Or maybe you're like me - "You don't make them, so then you can't break them!"
A good start
Thankfully I have had a great start to the new year. I've had four winners in the first three week of January, and for the second time in two years, I was lucky enough to win the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton for Nick Williams. This year's win came on board Swincombe Flame, who as you may remember from my last blog, is the horse I won on at Wincanton on Boxing Day. She is a very good mare who is going the right way and definitely a one to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.
In winning the Lanzarote I unfortunately picked up a seven day ban and lost my share of the prize money for my use of the whip. It was a very close finish to the race and when we past the line it took the judge a couple of minutes to call the result, so when he said: "Your winner is number 19" I was so thrilled. I felt I had given Swincombe Flame a very good ride to win by a nose - after she lost her back legs on landing over the last, she dug really deep and battled the whole way to the line for me. At the time I hadn't realised I'd gone over our allocated use of the whip (eight times) and it wasn't until l went into the stewards room for the enquire that I could see I had gone over by two and that one had landed short. It really put a damper on what 20 minutes earlier felt like a great day.
As jockeys we all love horses and I don't know a jockey that would ever purposefully harm a horse. We are all trying very hard to stick to these new rules but the punishments for minor infringements are very harsh. It is virtually impossible to count how many time you have used your whip in a race, especially when you get competitive in a finish and I think having the use of the whip halved was a very unrealistic target. I really do hope things can get sorted out soon as I feel people are losing faith in our wonderful sport, after all it is The Sport Of Kings.
Looking to March
Hopefully in my next blog I'll be talking about horses I'm looking forward to seeing and maybe riding at Cheltenham in March. If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask me, on here or on Twitter, I'm @WTKJockey."
"Hello everyone, I hope you all have had wonderful Christmases and I'd like to wish you all a very Happy New year, l hope it's a good one for all of you.
Boxing Day bonanza
Christmas is always a pretty busy time for me, with so many meetings on Boxing Day you're always looking to and hoping you pick the right meeting to go to, and this year I think I did. I had four nice rides at Wincanton, but with 10st on one for them there wasn't a lot of Christmas dinner for me this year! Unfortunately l just got touched off in the big race of the day on a little horse called Shoreacres for trainer Brendan Powell, but thankfully we got a winner on the Nick Williams' trained Swincombe Flame, so it wasn't a bad day at all with a winner and second.
Okay, so how awesome was Kauto Star in the King George? After being upsides him for the first mile-and-a half in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in Kauto's previous race, I gained a whole new respect for the horse. It's the ease in which he gallops and jumps that is just so remarkable, and to be still doing it at the ripe old age of 11 (or 12 now that 1 January has been and gone) is amazing. So much credit must go to his trainer Paul Nicholls, who kept the faith in Kauto when so many others said he should be retired. What a great training performance, and from a jockey's point of view well all I can say is I wish I was Ruby Walsh.
I've been very busy every day since Boxing Day too, which is a good thing. I picked up my first ride in the Welsh National on a horse called Indifference Curve, he gave me a great spin for two-and-a-half miles and jumped really well, but just got tired very quickly so I had to pull him up before four out. I then had a nice trip to Musselburgh in Scotland on New Year's Day for three rides - a long drive but unfortunately no joy!
Well 2011 had its ups and downs and I'm sure 2012 will too, but with the support from some owners and trainers and from my fabulous sponsor Mayiclaim I'm trying very hard to put myself in the position to make sure I have a lot more ups in 2012.
"The last time I wrote was just before the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. Well, the Hennessy didn't go exactly how I had hoped it would for me, but if I wasn't to win it, there was no one more deserving of a big race success than Mattie Batchelor on Carruthers. There will not have been one person in the weighing room that wasn't delighted to see Mattie ride that winner. He is one of the nicest and funniest men you could ever meet - for as long as I can remember every time I ride a winner I get a text message from Mattie saying well done. A true friend.
Two of the best
As some of you may have read, this week I have lost the rides on all of trainer Paul Webber's horses. This has been a massive blow to me, as he trains the two best horses I had to ride this season - Sarando and Time For Rupert. I had some really great days riding them both and many others for the stable, and I would like to wish those horses - especially Time For Rupert - all the success for the rest of the season.
So in the aftermath of that blow, it does now mean I have two free mornings a week to get in and ride out for other trainers, so I will be knuckling down and working hard to make some good connections and hopefully get on some nice horses for the rest of the season. Fingers crossed for a good one.
On the sidelines
It's not all bad though, at least I'm not injured. My thoughts go out to Robert "Choc" Thornton and Keith Mercer, who both broke their arms over the weekend, while Richie Kiloran, Jamie Moore and Johnny Farrelly have all broken their collarbone. The list of jockeys on the sideline at the moment is pretty long, and I wish them all a speedy recovery."