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Brooke eyes more Rowland Meyrick glory - if mum Julia doesn't poison him!

Henry Brooke after his fine day on Cornerstone Lad at Newcastle
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You could say Christmas came early at Newcastle last month for Henry Brooke when the jockey recorded his first top-level success in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle on Cornerstone Lad, but another present may be in store in Thursday's 888Sport Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby.

Trends devotees will be keen to side with Brooke, who has won the traditional festive contest for the last three years.

He has solid claims once more, reuniting with the Nick Alexander-trained Lake View Lad, who he rode to victory 12 months ago.

Watch: Lake View Lad stays on strongly to win last year's Rowland Meyrick

"I've been lucky to ride the best horse in the race in the last three years," reflects the modest 29-year-old, referencing Definitly Red in 2016 and Get On The Yager a year later.

"Lake View Lad had a lovely comeback run at Newcastle when he needed it. He'll come on loads for it and is very straightforward. If he can come on again we'll go close."

Brooke, whose mother Julia has a small string of horses at the family's farm – also home to 300 sheep and 30 cows – in North Yorkshire, grew up in the showjumping and pony spheres.

He feels his triumph on Cornerstone Lad underlined the upward curve his career has taken in the last few years.

Cornerstone Lad giving Henry Brooke the biggest win of his career

"The Fighting Fifth was a massive thrill," he adds. "Ever since I left Donald McCain's a few years ago when I felt I wasn't getting enough rides and decided to paddle my own canoe things have gone well.

"It's taken four or five years to get that ball rolling and it has done now. I've the support of a lot of good trainers in the north and even the support of southern trainers when they send horses up here, while I'm back riding for Donald as well, which is great.

"At one stage it was looking like I was going to have only my mum to ride for. I was questioning not whether to give up, but where the next winner was going to come from and things have sorted themselves out."

His best season came in 2016-17 with 48 winners, but surpassing that this term – he has 25 on the board – is not seen as the be-all and end-all.

"I'm never one for setting targets," Brooke continues. "You can work really hard, but if you're not on the right horses you're not going to ride winners. 

Lake View Lad: Brooke his optimistic about his claims

"It can make things harder when you set targets, but all I'd say is I've got my head down, I'm trying my hardest and I'm in the gym a lot.

"I'm doing everything I can to bring my A-game to the table and if I feel I've done everything and end up with 28 winners, well, there's no more I could've done. It's just about the right breaks and best horses."

Brooke's 21-year-old brother Danny – "he's massively into racing and I think he'll do very well" – is set to take over the training licence for the 2020 Flat season, but a future career on MasterChef is not expected to await mother Julia.

"Mum's in charge of Christmas dinner now and it could be a disaster," says the rider, who has his gift buying well in hand.

"My gran normally does the cooking and she's brilliant at it, but she's ill in hospital and we're struggling for a cook. My mum's taken over and that's a risk in itself – I could easily be doing 10st by the end of it!"

Should Brooke come through the turkey and Christmas pudding unscathed he could easily be celebrating another Rowland Meyrick and might have time to savour it a little more than last year.

"The first thing I did when I got home from Wetherby was feed Danny's cows," he says, keeping his fingers crossed he has something else to milk on Thursday night.

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My mum's taken over and that's a risk in itself - I could easily be doing 10st by the end of it!
E.W. Terms