It probably took people by surprise when I announced that I was going to move to England while the Covid-19 restrictions made commuting impossible, but when you looked at it from all the different angles, it made sense.
The toughest part of it of course is leaving the family, but my wife Hannah understood that we have to do it really and my daughter Emma is only two. She thinks I’m on holidays. And I am kind of on holidays, only that I get to ride a lot of good horses.
In racing terms, it would sting you a little on a Sunday, when there’s a big meeting on in Ireland and you’re at an ordinary meeting over here but something had to give. It was a calculated gamble, based on putting myself in the position where the best horses were.
When you looked at the options both in Ireland and England, I just felt the more Grade 1 opportunities were in England. I had the best of both worlds for a long time being able to travel over and back but that isn’t possible now, with the 14-day isolation required.
Jessica Harrington is down in numbers compared to what she had in the last few years, though she still has plenty of quality, but racing is a numbers game as well. Colin Tizzard is continuing to build his team of horses and it’s very exciting. They have a great team of owners as well, spent at lot of money in the Cheltenham Sale last March, so it is a yard going from strength to strength.
With hoses like Lostintranslation, The Big Breakaway and Fiddlerontheroof, I had to make myself available for those horses. It wasn’t going to be a case that if you didn’t go over and ride them in novice chases, you’d be available for their Grade 1 races because that’s not how the game works. You had to be there to ride them on their first days in normal novice chases to be able to ride them in their Grade 1s.
The Big Breakaway couldn’t have been more impressive at Cheltenham on his debut over fences. He jumped superbly and he’s still a bit of a baby. He only had three starts over hurdles and still has a lot to learn but the raw potential he has is untapped. When he learns more about the game, he could be very exciting.
The other factor to take into account was that because Irish trainers couldn’t send the regular riders over for their horses if racing them in Ireland, they might look to me and that’s how it has worked out. I rode for Jessie, Gordon (Elliott), Paul Nolan and Emmet (Mullins) over the weekend in Cheltenham — all trainers I’d ridden winners for in Ireland. It was great to win the Greatwood Hurdle on The Shunter for Emmet, particularly as I had to get down to 10 stone, which isn’t something I’ve done a lot of in recent years!
Lostintranslation makes his seasonal return this weekend after finishing just a length-and-a-half back from Al Boum Photo in third in the Gold Cup. I have always felt that there was a Gold Cup in him and that cracker he ran in March, coming into the race off an ordinary preparation, when things hadn’t gone a 100 per cent, only confirmed that.
Preparation is key and getting a clear run at it and if we can get that this year and things go his way, he has to have a big chance of winning a Gold Cup.
You don’t have to have big fields to have good races and tomorrow’s Betfair Chase at Haydock is a good example. You have Lostintranslation who won it last year, Bristol De Mai who won it twice and was second last year, and Clan Des Obeaux, who won two King Georges. Amazingly, he’s ante-post favourite for the King George and only third behind the other two in the betting for the Betfair. So it shows the strength of the race.
It looks pretty obvious that Bristol De Mai will make the running and we’ll see what happens after that. I can’t see it being too tactical.
I also ride for another Irish trainer, Colm Murphy at Haydock. Relegate ran a cracker last year in the Pertemps Final, when she was fifth, only beaten just over eight lengths. She’s a Champion Bumper winner and she runs in a competitive handicap off 10-8. Three miles and easy ground, everything is in her favour. It’s a very competitive race but she should be competitive.