"Thirty seconds jockeys," says the starter through his microphone.
I pull down my goggles, two sets as since I’m dropping in there could be a lot of kickback. The field has lined up as I hoped.
Aspire Tower and Petit Mouchoir at the front, Saint Roi and Abracadabras behind them while Couer Sublime and Saldier have lined up wide. I want to follow Saint Roi, not Abracadabras as I’m unsure how well Gordon Elliott’s horses are running this week.
"Alright jockeys, on you go."
The flag drops, the tape flies back and we’re away. We rattle down to the first at a good gallop. I can’t see much of it as we’re buried in behind but we angle into a bit of space between two tails and Sharjah tucks up quickly and touches down. We stride on past the stands and run downhill over the two hurdles down the side.
"It’s a fair gallop, isn’t it?" I shout at Keith Donoghue beside me. He agrees. Not five strides later, Sharjah takes a hold of the bit and I’ve to restrain him, causing me to wonder if I was wrong. We swing into the back straight and I can see Jack Kennedy squeezing Abracadabras along.
I don’t want to get caught behind him, nor do I want to let him pull out and push me wider, I keep close to Saint Roi’s tail, so that Jack doesn’t even think about it.
We fly the three hurdles across the back and the pace slows as we turn to head into the final five furlongs. The grey, Petit Mouchoir, is dropping back. Saint Roi moves up on his outside and I tail him but suddenly there’s scrimmaging in front of me.
Jack has let a shout at Bryan Cooper who is angling out to let his stablemate up the inside. Mark Walsh tries to keep the door shut but isn’t able.
Now Petit Mouchoir is in my path so I have to move out to avoid getting caught behind a retreating opponent.
Couer Sublime attempts to keep us in but Sharjah is travelling well enough that we manage to get back into the green and gold slipstream.
The second last jumps out at us on the bend and again we don’t see much of it but Sharjah is nimble and we land with daylight and our target in front of us. I look forward and see Saldier struggling. Mark still appears happy on Saint Roi so I continue to follow.
We speed up with two furlongs to go. The previous day’s old ground is four horse widths off the rail, so I’m at pains not to get pushed onto it.
Mark is starting to move his hands and feet so I peer forward again. Aspire Tower is still going well under Rachael Blackmore and suddenly I realise Mark might not be getting to her. I squeeze with my ankles and give Sharjah an inch of rein to go chasing.
I don’t want to fully commit until after the last though. We make ground but Aspire Tower isn’t slowing. I slap Sharjah down the shoulder and we drop another inch closer to the ground and start catching more quickly.
The last rushes towards us. The stride is long, not Sharjah’s strength. I sit, he shortens but it’s very tight. I can feel us hit the hurdle and land slightly awkwardly. Balls! Have we thrown it away? Our momentum carries us level and now I ask Sharjah for everything, the accelerator firmly on the floor.
Saint Roi disappears from my inside so I move in, closing the door. We’re inching ahead of Aspire Tower. Will the last cost us? Past the 100 yards, past the 50 yards. All I’m looking for is the red lollipop. We flash past the line. He’s won it again.
A hat-trick of Christmas Hurdle wins, he's better than Santa!