Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 25 February 2018

Ambassador role new turf for me

The first big weekend of the season at Cheltenham was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Dave's Dream won in grand style this day last week. It may not have been the strongest race, but he jumped brilliantly and couldn't have done any more than he did.

While he was a highly rated hurdler, it has taken time for him to get up to a similar level over fences. He will probably go for the equivalent handicap chase at Cheltenham next month, when we should get a better idea as to whether he can develop into a Ryanair Chase horse for the Festival in March.

I had no further luck over the next two days. Basically, once the rain came, a lot of my chances were diminished.

Mad Max never jumped or travelled on the ground before taking fourth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, while a similar comment applies to Forpadydeplasterer, which finished second for the umpteenth time on Sunday. It's all about the ground with him.

Forpadydeplasterer gets plenty of stick for finishing second so often, but he's as genuine as the day is long. Tom Cooper might step him up to three miles in the King George over Christmas, and I don't think he'll have any problem staying the trip.

The problem will be the ground. Although Kempton usually gets decent ground, it is liable to be soft in the middle of winter, so that's the worry.

Unfortunately, all the Irish-trained runners came up short. On Friday, Garde Champetre got run out of it in the cross-country race -- usually a shoo-in for the Irish horses -- and that just about summed up the weekend.

Noel Glynn didn't even get a run with Gonebeyondrecall in the big race on Saturday. The horse was deemed to be wearing the wrong headgear down at the start and had to be withdrawn.


After the busy weekend, I took a few days off early in the week. The only decent ride that I could have had was Nadiya De La Vega for Nicky Henderson at Warwick on Wednesday. She won handy, but she had 10st 3lb, and I didn't fancy that.

I was able to put the spare time to good use anyway. There was plenty to do in the office at home -- including the delightful matter of sorting out my preliminary tax -- and I got to spend some family time with my wife Paula and daughter Siofra.

They also came along with me for a VIP Magazine photo shoot on Monday. The gig was organised as part of my new role as Horse Racing Ireland's jump racing ambassador, and at least the two girls added a bit of glamour to it all. Not that I have any difficulty with that kind of thing myself. Indeed, having originally thought that the shoot would take place on Tuesday, I had to turn it on at very short notice -- no problem to a man of my talents!

The whole ambassadorial role is a new departure for me, but I'll do what I can to help raise the profile of the game over the next few months.

I'm even on Facebook and Twitter. I'd be lying if I said that kind thing comes naturally -- it feels like you're talking to yourself when, clearly, you're not -- but it might grow on me.

I was back in action at Thurles yesterday. Unfortunately I had no joy, though I'd be hopeful things will pick up again now.

I'll be at Ascot for Nicky Henderson over the next couple of days, with Zaynar due to make his seasonal bow in the Coral Hurdle tomorrow. Then it's on to Navan for the Troytown Chase on Sunday.

Navan is my local track and the Troytown is a race I've won twice before. I'm still not sure what I'll ride in it, but I'll be disappointed if I don't pick up something with a chance.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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