King's Lil Rockerfeller will be giving it his all as usual
Let us now praise Lil Rockerfeller and hope that one of the gutsiest horses in training wins the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown (5.30), even though I’ll be very surprised if he does.
Failed cyclist Trevor Whelan will be watching and wishing that he was riding Neil King’s champion, as he has done virtually throughout Lil Rockerfeller’s hurdling career. Whelan’s bad luck gives champion jockey Richard Johnson the privilege of asking Lil Rockerfeller to keep trying, which Lil Rockerfeller always does.
The six-year-old hasn't won a race this season but he's run better than ever, finishing runner-up to Yanworth, then to Unowhatimeanharry and most recently giving his all to be beaten less than a length by Nichols Canyon in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham, at 33-1. It’s like taking on Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali and getting beaten on points.
When Neil King bought Lil Rockerfeller as a three-year-old for £31,000, he couldn’t have imagined the heights his new inmate would reach. American bred and not bred for jumping, Lil Rockerfeller had won two small races on the Flat for Richard Hannon and was rated 73.
During his first season hurdling, Lil Rockerfeller won a valuable handicap at Ascot off a mark of 125 and followed up in a similar race at Sandown off 133, winning more than £57,000.
In his second season, Lil Rockerfeller won a Listed hurdle at Sandown off 146 and the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell. Aiming high, the five-year-old took on the best in the 2016 Champion Hurdle and finished seventh, the only time in 18 hurdle runs that Lil Rockerfeller has finished out of the first four. He really never does run a bad race and since joining King has won over £275,000 for Messrs Davies, Smith, Govier and Brown, his lucky owners, the horse’s trainer and jockeys.
Lil Rockerfeller is now rated 160, which ranks him behind only Uknowhatimeanharry and Nichols Canyon in the Punchestown race. King hasn’t had a great season but his horses are in good form now. Lil Rockerfeller has had a break since Cheltenham. Even so, having given everything in the Stayers' Hurdle there I wonder if he will able to match that supreme effort. There's certainly every chance that he will take home at least part of the prize money pot – he always does.
While the Punchestown Festival attracts the stars, Perth's own festival has an enviable reputation of its own. The English go there to get as far away from home as possible without leaving dry land. What is mysterious about Thursday's meeting is that it’s Lady Georgina's birthday. I know because it’s being celebrated in the Lady Georgina Birthday Celebration Hurdle (4.45).
But who is Lady Georgina? It isn't the Lady Georgina who won two races for James Fanshawe because she was foaled in January 2001. Is it Lady Georgina Pelham, who breeds Arabian horses, or Lady Georgina Forbes, the owner of showjumpers? I'd like it to be Lady Georgina Peveril-Fitzroy but she's a fictional character.
Happy birthday, whoever you are.