It just was not to be for Dad’s Lad in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last weekend.
He never got going really, and we could not land a blow. He was disappointing, but it was probably one run too many, and he deserves his break now after having such a brilliant summer. Dad’s Lad will go on his holidays, and hopefully he will be back in top form for the spring festivals.
The Greatwood Hurdle was a competitive race, as it always is, but low-lying sun caused hurdles to be removed, which completely changed the contest in truth. The position of where the hurdles are situated when they are being removed is especially important.
The two hurdles in the straight were taken out, and this had a significant impact as we were meant to jump them twice, and it resulted in the course itself being altered. The decision was, understandably, a late one, so instead of just running straight through the space left by the removed hurdles, we had to zig zag around these two obstacles.
Some people may not realise that sometimes when the last hurdles are removed like on Saturday, it turns the race into far more of a stamina-laden contest. We, as jockeys, naturally start racing a little bit earlier without these hurdles being jumped as we all want a better position, so the better stayers tend to win. The winner on the day showed plenty of guts and determination.
He is definitely not a horse to write off just yet.
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Bob Olinger was beaten on Sunday on his eagerly anticipated run back over hurdles, and after a brilliantly entertaining finish, he was seen off by Home By The Lee. Had you stopped the race two out, you would only be really impressed by the eventual second as he had travelled very well.
The winner impressed me on the day as he stayed so strongly, and it is possible that he is not getting the praise he deserves because we are only talking about the runner-up.
I loved how Ballyshannon Rose ran for me on Thursday...
Bob Olinger still ran a huge race, and it is more than likely he just desperately needed the run. He will be interesting to watch next time to see if he can improve from this. He is definitely not a horse to write off just yet.
Of the others who ran last weekend, I was particularly taken by Banbridge. He looked very comfortable jumping fences and seems a natural two-miler. He got valuable Cheltenham experience there, and everyone connected with the horse should be excited.
For myself, I loved how Ballyshannon Rose ran for me on Thursday when finishing a close second. She jumped super, with the likes of Scarlet And Dove, and Elimay finishing in behind. Dolcita caught us in the end in an awfully close finish, but if Ballyshannon Rose could produce that again, she could be a big price at 25/1 with horse racing betting sites for the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham in March!
This week, we said we would focus on three “dark horses” to keep on side at bigger prices perhaps from the novice chasing division. There is so much talent down in Closutton that sometimes there can be particularly good horses who somewhat fly under the radar.
...I think he can have a big season if he puts it all together...
Flame Bearer and James Du Berlais are two horses from this division that I have given already, and I am happy to stick with them. As I said previously, they are very good schooling at home and could really be horses to follow in their respective divisions.
The third one who could do very well over fences is Kilcruit. I rode him schooling at home during the week, and I was very impressed. He is a nice tall horse with plenty of scope, and I think he can have a big season if he puts it all together as he should.
From the novice hurdlers, I noticed a horse who went very well during the week at Willie Mullins’, and that was Shanbally Kid. He was bought by Willie after winning his bumper for Richard O’Brien, and he is one I like a lot. You would think he would end up in one of the staying novice races and seems a huge price at 50/1 with ante post horse racing betting sites for the Albert Bartlett based on his impressive work at home. He goes well and could have a big future.
We should have a quality weekend ahead with the undoubted highlight being the Betfair Chase. If A Plus Tard shows up, then it will be extremely hard to stop him. He is a super horse, and it is fantastic that he’s back again.
Constitution Hill is the new kid on the block, and we are all looking forward to him also if the ground works itself out for Nicky Henderson. The Champion Hurdle division looks extremely interesting this season.
For myself, I ride Brahma Bull in the Cross Country at Punchestown, and I have had a great run with him. His season now will revolve around the equivalent race at Cheltenham, and hopefully we can make our mark in this division.