It ended up as a quiet enough week for me, but Gordon had a few winners and all in all it was a good few days for the yard. Tiger Roll heads to Cheltenham on Friday and after a few days of agonising about it, I've decided I'm not going make the journey over to ride him at Cheltenham.
This was a very hard decision.
As everyone knows I adore Tiger Roll, without this horse I massively doubt I would still be a jockey. So every time he runs I obviously want to be on board. The only time I was happy not to ride Tiger was last time at Navan when he ran on the flat, as no matter how much running I do I'll always struggle to get down to 9 stone and 7 pounds!
The decision not to ride Tiger Roll this weekend was hard enough without adding in the fact that he is in really good form at home. As I've said before you know Tiger Roll is ready for action again when he starts acting wild. The more kicking and bucking he does, the more you know he is coming back to himself.
Yesterday I was trying to put his saddle on and he just kept running circles around me - I just couldn't actually get to him no matter how hard I tried! As frustrating as it was, I was delighted as this shows that he could well be back to his best, or at least on his way back to his prime.
Last season he just went into Cheltenham Festival without as much preparation as he needed. His injury really held him back and we had to rush him to get him ready. Hopefully he can step forward again this year and return to his absolute best. I'm not making excuses either, he was beaten by a superstar in Easysland, but when you are taking on a horse as good as him you want to be 100% and we simply weren't.
I just can't risk the journey with Covid. Being a jockey is all about momentum and I'm enjoying the best season I've had in a long time. I think I'd be stupid to jeopardise that with the potential of 2 weeks out of action. It doesn't take long to be forgotten in this game and I want to make sure I'm available for every ride I can be here in Ireland.
There is also the added incentive of Coeur Sublime in the Morgiana Hurdle and I can't miss that opportunity either. I've worked very hard these last few months with the main goal being to be competitive in Grade One races so I'm not going to miss this chance. I think Coeur Sublime could be competitive in races like this over the season, so forging a relationship on the racecourse is very important for a jockey. Hopefully I get the ride on him on Sunday as I hope.
I hope the real Tiger Roll shows up on Friday, but in any case he will improve a lot for the outing and I don't think his legendary story is finished quite yet!
Navan proved to be top quality once again and up until the fall I was delighted with Ronald Pump who ran a big race behind Sire Du Berlais in the Lismullen Hurdle.
The winner is now a two time Cheltenham Festival winner and I still think the first two home in last season's Pertemps would've gone very close in the Stayers Hurdle as it worked out. Sire Du Berlais has every chance of winning the Stayers in March in my opinion and I'd be very hopeful Ronald Pump will be bang there as well.
We weren't finished with when we came down at the last on Sunday. I ended up being boxed in and when I went to switch to the outside I was kept in by Sire Du Berlais and we just didn't make it over the hurdle. He was definitely tiring at that point as well, but he had more to give. He will be a lot fitter for that run and based on his brilliant second in the Stayers Hurdle last year Ronald Pump doesn't need to improve a lot more to go close in these types of races.
Matthew Smith is a brilliant trainer and has a very good one on his hands here.
Roaring Bull was another who I was really impressed with as we finished 2nd at massive odds in the Troytown Handicap Chase. He just bumped into a really well handicapped horse in The Jam Man - its rare you run a blinder like that, but finish 2nd by 18 lengths!
Roaring Bull will be competitive in races like this all season and one might just fall his way. You cannot say he's well handicapped, but he is running well with his mark and one of these big handicaps could fall his way again. He's a horse who owes nothing to anybody, he's a great servant.
On The Jam Man, I think Ronan McNally deserves massive praise for his brilliant campaigning with this horse. To go from winning on the flat at York, to winning the Troytown Chase is a great bit of placing and he deserves huge praise. He is a brilliant trainer and clearly knows how to ready one for the big day which is key in racing obviously.
Easywork was brilliant on his chasing debut and he finished very strongly. He made a few mistakes early, but I like when a novice does that first time out as they learn a lot from those mistakes and its great to get them out of the way. A horse learns to respect a fence properly by making errors.
I read the debate on Twitter about where he might end up and it's a very fair conversation to have. I think his best trip is over 2 & 1/2 miles, but that means he will be bumping into Envoi Allen all season and that won't be easy for any horse in training!
Without Envoi Allen, Easywork would be a Ballymore winner in his own right and he's a very good horse. Nobody connected to the horse has had this conversation yet, but if they were to avoid Envoi Allen I'd be going up in trip with him rather than back to 2 miles. I don't think he is the quickest horse in the world and it would be interesting to see if stays 3 miles over fences in time.
For now though he can only keep doing what he's been doing and we can figure out the best trip for him later in the season! Easywork just shows the depth Gordon has in the yard now and he's a fantastic horse to have no matter what way it works out.
Punchestown & Cheltenham
The Morgiana Hurdle is the big race this weekend at Punchestown and it's a small, but very competitive field.
Saint Roi is the favourite which is very fair as he's a very exciting horse. He blew me away at Cheltenham and was equally as brilliant at Tipperary last time. He's improving quickly and he's the one we all have to beat.
Saldier won this race last season off a long break and you'd imagine it would no surprise were he to do it again. Abacadabras has his chance here as well and his work is a lot better since that run at Down Royal. He needed that badly and should be a better horse here. He will need everything to go right for him in that he will need a very strong pace to aim at, but if he does get this he will go very close.
I don't actually think Abacadabras is as soft as people think he is, he just only quickens once and gallops so he needs everything to fall right for him. I think he'll prove a better horse over 2 & 1/2 miles, but that's another story for another day.
I'll ride Coeur Sublime in this who has been working well at Gearoid O'Loughlin's since moving from Gordon's, but that might not mean a whole lot as this horse has always been brilliant at home.
Coeur Sublime is a very alert and nervous horse, so the move to a smaller yard might have done him the world of good. Everyone knows I think Gordon Elliott is a genius, but sometimes horses like Coeur Sublime thrive in a smaller setting. I've been very impressed with how relaxed he has been when I've been working him and it'll be interesting to see how he runs. I have always thought the world of this horse and he has a fantastic trainer in Gearoid O'Loughlin.
He will no doubt come on a lot for the run, but I'm hoping he will show himself in a good light against some very good horses and we can take it from there.
Two To Watch
Two horse to watch out for this weekend will be Call Me Lyreen and Duffle Coat.
Call Me Lyreen will run at Punchestown on Saturday and he has really impressed me on his 2 starts so far. I can't wait to see him up in class, and I hope I'll keep the partnership with him.
Duffle Coat is a 3-year-old who has done everything right so far and has won his 3 races easily. I like him an awful lot of our juveniles and it will be very interesting to see how he goes in a better race like this at Cheltenham on Saturday.