It is no great revelation to say that this season has not gone as planned but that is the case for everyone.
National Hunt racing is never straightforward anyway, it’s the nature of it, but clearly in the greater scheme of things, nobody in racing can complain and I certainly can’t. There are a lot of people with far worse problems.
I spent time based in England to ride Colin Tizzard’s horses because with the variety of restrictions, you couldn’t commute. That meant being away from my family but the horses just weren’t running to their best at the time. And as things got worse, I decided to come back home.
As I said, I am very much aware that a lot of people are going through really tough times. I’ve still ridden plenty of winners and was leading jockey in Cheltenham last November. It’s still shaping up to be a good season and there is plenty to look forward to yet.
Key among those in Cheltenham is Lostintranslation and though he was disappointing in the King George, I took a lot of positives from his last run in Newbury, when he jumped and travelled far better before tiring. He has been second in a Marsh and third in last year’s Gold Cup and if he improves from the last day, he could be a very big price.
Aspire Tower is another who should be competitive in the Champion Hurdle. He was very impressive when he won first time out this season in Down Royal and the form of it has been given a big boost, with the likes of Jason The Militant being a very impressive winner at Fairyhouse and Abacadabras won a Grade 1 after.
He was second behind Sharjah at Leopardstown over Christmas and was maybe a little unlucky and he was given time to freshen up after that, giving the Dublin Racing Festival a miss.
It’s an open race but if he puts his best foot forward and can come on a little bit, as he’s entitled to do as a five-year-old, he has a definite each-way chance.
The Big Breakaway was second in a Grade 1 at Christmas and ran a good race when the horses weren’t running well. That shows him in a good light. He’s been freshened up since Christmas, he will race and he goes into the Festival Chase with a good each-way chance. Monkfish is obviously the one to beat and looks a very good horse but I think The Big Breakaway will be value to be placed.
Fiddlerontheroof is another who has run consistently well all season, like The Big Breakaway, when the horses haven’t been firing on all cylinders. If he were to improve a little bit on what he’s done he could be very competitive in whatever race they decide to line him up in at The Festival.
I have had some great memories at Cheltenham over the years, including winning the Gold Cup with Sizing John. I have had some good luck for Colin Tizzard and for Jessica Harrington, and if I could come away from the week with one winner this time around, I would be delighted.
Winners at any time of the year are great but if you come away from Cheltenham with one, you have had a good week. That will be my aim and I will have a few who should be right in the mix, to give me a chance.
It being Cheltenham though, it won’t be easy. But then that’s why the winners there are so special.