That was a brilliant weekend!
I was absolutely delighted to have landed the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal with The Storyteller. Gordon also had a brilliant weekend so it was great for all concerned and let's just hope this run of form can continue.
Everything just worked out brilliantly on the day and it was an amazing feeling when we passed the line together in front.
I was quite confident in the days coming up to the race, as I mentioned in this column last week, and I told everyone in the yard I thought he would go very close. I just thought he was in the form of his life and crucially had a fitness edge over all of these on the day. This was in a way his Gold Cup, while the others were just finding their feet with a long season ahead.
A lot of people have mentioned how The Storyteller has his own way of jumping a fence, and he really does. He takes a while to warm up in a race and can give a few fences loads of air early on, but I've learned to just sit on him and let him figure it out as he goes. When he meets one right, he has loads of scope and wouldn't give you a moment's worry. He can be safe, but he doesn't lose much ground so it's never anything to worry about.
I was very happy for the first half of the race and I just sat at the back waiting for things to develop. I was actually worried I had got there a bit too soon when he made up ground so easily three out, but in hindsight that was actually ideal as we managed to get Chris's Dream off the bridle a bit earlier than they probably wanted.
The Storyteller has one strong gallop in him that wins him most of his races, and I was again worried that I had used that coming to the last. He somewhat pitched after the fence and when I looked up Chris's Dream was ahead and I thought maybe we were going to be edged out. I just put my head down and asked him for more up the run in. He gave me everything and by the time I had looked up, we were on the line and we had won. It was a classy and brave performance from him.
It's incredible that he's still improving at 9-years-old.
You are always asked "when did you feel you had the race won?", I can safely say it was after the line!
It’s days like this that make all those hard nights running worthwhile and The Storyteller has been a big part of that. He got my summer going really when we won at Galway together and he's been great for me. I've been on him now 7 times and we have won together on 6 of those starts. Tiger Roll is obviously a very special horse to me, but The Storyteller is another dream horse to be associated with.
His handicap mark means that he only really has races at the top level to aim at now and I'd imagine its between the Stayers Hurdle and the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival for him long term. He will be 10 years old so if the owners want a go at a Gold Cup, this is his last chance really.
I have yet to ride in a Gold Cup, so I'll be pushing for him to go there anyway!
Excellent Envoi Allen
Readers of this column will know how bullish I am about this horse and I couldn't find much fault in anything Envoi Allen did last weekend. He was brilliant at most fences and the few occasions he maybe didn't meet them with a perfect stride he was intelligent enough to put himself right. He's a machine and looks like a fence has improved him again which is almost a scary proposition.
Of course he has to be beaten at some point, but he's just been so good at every point in his career that it's hard to see at the moment when that might happen! I imagine he'll stick to 2 & 1/2 miles this season and the world is definitely at Envoi Allen's feet.
Cheveley Park Stud deserves praise for how well they are buying horses. A lot of people spend big money in racing, but when pay big for one it just always seems to work out brilliantly for them. They had 4 winners last weekend including Envoi Allen and they were all impressive.
Ballyadam looked very good and he's a really fast horse at home. He should actually improve a lot for that run and I'm really looking forward to seeing him pitched in a bit higher next time. He hasn't really faced off against a top-class horse yet and we'll know a lot more about him after the Royal Bond if he does go there. He's exciting, he's very quick, but like always we should reserve a bit of judgement until they race at the top level.
Quilixios has been one of the best juveniles around so far and he couldn't have done that any easier than he did at Down Royal last weekend. We don't know how strong this division is at all, but he's doing everything right. Sir Gerhard was everything we hoped he would be when winning the bumper easily on Saturday. That was very impressive and he looks special. He showed a lot of flash on Saturday, but this horse is definitely a grinder as well.
If he can keep progressing like this we might have another machine on our hands!
Farouk D'alene Impresses
Away from the Cheveley Park Stud horses I was very happy with Farouk D'alene. He is right up there as our best novice hurdler and I think 2 & 1/2 will be his trip this season. He's quick, but he stays strongly as well and he's one to stay on the right side of this season. I like him an awful lot from our bunch of novices.
Battleoverdoyen was called a few names last season, but we changed a few things at home and he was impressive. His size led a few people to believe that he was a stayer, but this is definitely his trip, and he could even drop back to 2 miles. We always thought the world of him and we might just have him figured out a bit more now. He was brilliant at his fences, and beat a good horse in Easy Game quite comfortably.
Samcro was behind him that day and while he'll improve for the run and made a mistake at a bad time, he does need to improve from that now.
The jury seems to be out on Abacadabras and to be honest I do understand why. People call him soft and at times he has shaped like that. I think he'll come on a lot for the run and he needs a race to be much quicker than that was. As good as Rachael and Aspire Tower were, it was just never going to suit Abacadabras on the day.
He has a few questions to answer, but I'm convinced he will win a big one, but it will need to work out perfectly for him in that the pace will need to be very strong so he can quicken off it. He's still a top-class horse and a very valuable part of the team going forward.
Nobody is running away with ourselves here, but I think Gordon is edging closer and closer to eventually claiming the Irish trainers' championship. The yard's horses are improving every year and we are now competing strongly in every division there is. This hasn't been the case over the last few years and there has been plenty of races here in Ireland worth a lot of money in the past that we just didn't have anything for. When you are competing with a yard as top-class as Willie Mullins' you need to have everything covered and I feel we are getting there piece by piece.
It might only happen in a few years, but Gordon deserves a lot of praise for how much improvement he gets from every horse in the yard, every single season.
It's a big Sunday of racing ahead at Navan, a racecourse that deserves a lot of recognition for the top class racing they always seem to put together. It's a brilliant and fair track and I know Gordon loves running his horses here. Sunday has some great races and I like one of Gordon’s in the Troytown.
Gordon will run a few, but I quite like Elwood who should have plenty of improvement in him as he's only 6 years old. His jumping definitely needs to improve, but he ran well here as a novice last season in a Grade 2 behind Captain CJ and he could run well off his mark. He wasn't unfancied at Cheltenham by any means but unfortunately fell. He's been working away fine at home and if he can put it all together he can go close here.