Elliott and Carberry to collect with Eshtiaal
I will watch Gordon Elliott's Bayan line out in Thursday's Guinness Galway Hurdle with slightly mixed emotions.
A year ago, we went close in the big race before enjoying an emotional win in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot in December. I had just come back from injury after suffering a short-term paralysis following a fall, so it was a victory that meant a lot.
I only got to ride Bayan once more after that, because I suffered a repeat of last year's injury when Portrait King fell in the Grand National, a fall that ended my riding career. Five weeks ago, I underwent surgery.
They went in through the front of my neck and took out the disc between my third and fourth vertebrae, just behind my tongue. A metal plate was inserted in its place, and the immediate relief of pressure was unbelievable. My arms used to be dead, I had no real power in them, but they improved dramatically after the surgery.
After the fall, I was taking up to eight tablets a day to kill the nerve pain, but I haven't had to take one since the operation. The disc that was removed was touching my spine, so getting it out was the only way to go.
I have felt perfect for the past few weeks. On Wednesday week, I am due to go for my six-week check-up, and I'm hoping that the specialist might give me the all-clear to ride out in the New Year. I was told after the fall that it would be too dangerous to ride again, but, with the disc out, I am out of the danger zone, so it would increase my options if I get the go-ahead to ride out.
Obviously I wouldn't be doing anything stupid like schooling, but it would be nice to at least ride out again. In the autumn when I have strengthened up a bit more, I will go into Gordon's and maybe do a bit of work at the races for him.
Then I am going travelling with my girlfriend Louise for six weeks in November and December to places like Hong Kong, Thailand, China and Vietnam. That's something I never got a chance to do before, so I am looking forward to it. By the time 2016 comes around, though, I will be chomping at the bit to get back to work.
In the meantime, I will do my best to point readers in the way of a few winners this week. Tonight's featured amateur riders' race at Galway isn't the strongest edition. Gordon has booked Nina Carberry for Eshtiaal, and I think they might collect.
Eshtiaal has 12st so it won't be easy, but he is an improving horse. This is a race they have had in mind for him for a while, and he won't mind a bit of cut in the ground. He was fancied at York last time when he won.
Tonight, he is just five pounds higher, and I don't think the handicapper has a hold of him just yet. He stays well, so he is the one for me. Ted Veale is obviously going to be a danger, and Wood Breizh might be thereabouts for Willie Mullins and Katie Walsh as well, having skated up at Tipperary last time.
In the novices' hurdle, I don't think Gordon's Moonmeister will go on the softened ground, so it's Zafayan for me in that. Dermot Weld's horse has plenty experience and won't mind the ground.
He took a while to master jumping, but he is more the finished article now. Mullins' Bachasson is keen enough. He might not get up the hill, but he could be pretty serious if he does.
In the handicap hurdle, Donal Kinsella's King Of Oriel can atone for his fall in the race last year when he might well have won. Gordon's Utmost Zeal can be free so he might not get home and The Scourge could be limited.
Kinsella's horses have been flying and King Of Oriel will be fit from his win on the Flat, so he has lots of appeal.
My idea of a nap would be Dermot Weld's True Solitaire in the juveniles' maiden, which Weld has won 22 times. True Solitaire showed plenty when a beaten favourite on his Gowran Park debut.
Jim Bolger's two-year-olds have been flying so Brontide might be the danger, but, if True Solitaire improves for experience, he should take some stopping.
5.15 - Zafayan
5.45 - King Of Oriel
6.15 - True Solitaire (Nap)
6.50 - Eshtiaal
7.20 - Cenotaph
7.50 - Harasava
8.20 - Another Cyclone