No dream result but a great buzz to be back riding
To celebrate the countdown to Christmas, the Racing Post is giving away one piece of paid content free each day. Here, top jockey Sam Twiston-Davies assesses the prospects of his Saturday rides and casts his eye over the racing world in his weekly column
Finishing second is never easy to take, and it wasn’t the dream result on my return to the saddle that I had been hoping for. However, it was a real thrill to be involved in such a great race for the International Hurdle at Cheltenham last Saturday.
After jumping the final flight I truly believed that The New One would be able to get back at My Tent Or Yours up the hill. As always, he tried his hardest, and it must have been wonderful for racing fans to see two of the sport’s old favourites battling it out all the way to the line.
The New One is an honest as ever and is now just £20,000 short of accumulating £1 million in prize-money during his career. He is entered in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day, then he’ll go to Haydock, and his festival target will be the Stayers' Hurdle.
His tenth birthday is fast approaching, but there’s plenty of life left in him I am sure.
It was a great feeling to be back racing. I felt really happy and got a great buzz out of seeing all the lads in the weighing room and the valets once again. There were so many people I didn’t get the chance to see during my spell on the sidelines and it was great to catch-up and hear all the stories.
I was never madly excited about going back to school at the end of the summer holidays because I wasn’t keen on lessons, but I always looked forward to seeing my friends again.
On Saturday, I couldn’t wait to get back to what I love doing – riding horses – and also to see all those people with whom I enjoy so much camaraderie during the year. Lots of my family and friends were there to support me and I enjoyed a warm reception when I went out to ride The New One. That meant a lot.
In terms of general fitness, I can only reiterate what a fantastic job the team at Oaksey House did with me during my rehabilitation. I felt great during the race, and there were no aches or stiffness afterwards or the following morning.
The biggest test came on Thursday when I took a fall from Neetside in the mares’ novices’ hurdle at Exeter. I landed on the arm which had kept me out of action for so long – there was no reaction at all. It’s so good to be back.
Adrien Du Pont heads my three rides at Ascot
There is some cracking racing at Ascot on Saturday and I have three rides, including two for Paul Nicholls.
Adrien Du Pont faces just two rivals in the Sodexo Graduation Chase (1.15), but it’s a competitive little race with Coney Island and More Of That in opposition.
My horse has taken to fences really well, and looks a typical one of Paul’s in that he will make a better chaser than hurdler.
Ptit Zig tackles the £100,000 Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase (3.00). He has a lot of weight, but ran okay last time behind Top Notch at Taunton and the combination of a step back up to three miles and some soft ground will help him.
I also partner This Is It for Nick Mitchell in the Foundation Developments Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (12.40).
He must also carry top weight, but has plenty of ability and I’m hopeful he goes there with a chance.
I’ve ridden him twice before at the beginning of his career and he is a nice horse who is likely to do even better when he goes chasing.
We all wish Sire De Grugy a long and happy retirement
People fall in love with horses like Sire De Grugy and The New One because they have proved themselves major stars over a long period of time.
It is not only their talent on the racecourse and individual personalities which endears them to racing fans – it is their longevity.
Sire De Grugy won his first race on New Year’s Day in 2011, and dined at the top table for many years, his big-race victories including that unforgettable triumph in the 2014 Champion Chase.
He always wore his heart on his sleeve and had a great partnership with Jamie Moore, who loves him.
There will be lots of people reading this column who will join me in wishing Sire De Grugy the happiest of retirements.
Politologue in great shape for Kempton test
I’ve been down to Ditcheat twice this week. The highlight was schooling Politologue on Thursday morning ahead of his next outing in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton next Wednesday.
He is in great nick and schooled really well. He finds it all very easy, and has a great way of going about him. He doesn’t waste energy; he just gets it done. It felt lovely to be riding him again.
I also went to Paul Nicholls’ staff party and caught up with all the lads and lasses there. It’s great to be a part of it all once again.
Harry Potter invisibility cloak would be cool Christmas present
I’ll be spending Christmas Day at home with my family. There will be about ten of us and it’s a festive occasion I always enjoy.
It sounds pretty cheesy, but all I really want for Christmas is a Boxing Day winner at Kempton, particularly having been out injured for so long. I suppose if I could have one wish it would be that The New One could get into Doctor Who’s Tardis and become a five-year-old again! Then I’d have all of his amazing career to look forward to once more.
A Harry Potter invisibility cloak would also be cool. Apart from the obvious benefits which would come from being invisible – use your imagination! – I could just hide whenever I liked. I’m sure everybody would love to be able to do that at various times of their lives.
Get on Ballyoptic for RSA Chase at 25-1
It was interesting to read the ante-post Cheltenham best bets of the Racing Post’s tipping team on Thursday.
So much can happen between now and mid-March, but my selection would be Ballyoptic for the RSA Chase. He was a smart hurdler, and there is no reason why he cannot be just as good – if not better – over fences.
Ballyoptic gave me a great feel when he won on his chasing debut at Exeter in November, and he’s better than he showed at Cheltenham subsequently. He is generally available at 25-1 and I fancy he will be at shorter odds after he has run at Kempton on Boxing Day.
It wasn’t the intention when I introduced this ‘ride of the week’ feature that it would nearly always be landed by one of Nige’s jockeys!
However, it’s hard to get away from another rider based at Grange Hill Farm this week as Tom Humphries put up a great performance to get Arthur’s Gift home at Cheltenham last Friday.
Tom isn’t out there riding every day of the week, but he grafts away behind the scenes and showed just how capable he is when the opportunity arises.
Things weren’t really happening for Arthur’s Gift coming down the hill, but he nursed him into contention and got a great run out of him from the second-last. It was a pleasure to watch.
Wayne Jones has ridden and looked after The New One from the first day the horse arrived at Grange Hill Farm. He comes in and rides The New One every day and has built up a fabulous rapport with him over the years.
Wayne has also led The New One up throughout his career and the pair have shared many great days together. He is the one who knows the horse best and deserves massive credit for all his efforts.
This week was great because . . .
I enjoyed the indescribable buzz of being back at racecourses like Cheltenham and Ascot, riding good horses in good races.
This week sucked because . . .
It’s always horrible when a horse loses its life on the racecourse. Starchitect’s fatal injury in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup put a huge dampener on the afternoon for everybody who was at Cheltenham.
I can’t wait for . . .
Kempton on Boxing Day. I’ll tell you all about my rides in Tuesday’s Racing Post, but one the I'm particularly looking forward to at this stage is Ballyoptic in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.
Theo’s Charm catches the eye in the 2m3f handicap chase (1.50) at Ascot on Saturday. He shaped well behind Ridgeway Flyer at Plumpton and is now 2lb lower in the weights.
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