It was very busy over Christmas — there was a lot of racing on and some really good horses on show.
As I said in my last blog Christmas for jockeys is all about Boxing Day. I had 7 rides at Wincanton, and a winner so I was pleased with that. Luckily I didn’t have any light weights to do either, so I could still enjoy Christmas Day.
Boxing Day was great for Ditcheat, with Silviniaco Conti winning the King George VI Chase.
It was the 8th time Paul Nicholls has won the race. His horses are flying at the moment — he’s about £300,000 ahead of Nicky Henderson in the trainer’s title race now, so that’s sure to be a good battle come March/April time.
I went over to Ireland to ride in the Lexus Chase too (28 December). It was the first time I’ve ridden at Leopardstown and it’s a lovely track.
The Lexus was a top-class race and a good Gold Cup trial. Bobs Worth was a worthy winner, he ran really well. Mine (Unioniste) ran well, even though he wasn’t placed, but he’s still only 6 and he’s already won 6 times. He could well be a good Grand National horse in years to come.
Last week racing was stopped in its tracks a bit because of the weather. It’s no fault of the racecourses, but there have been lots of abandonments due to the wet ground and flooding, which can be a bit frustrating. It does give us a little breather and time to recharge though, ready for the last few months of the season.
It was really wet at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but I’d rather be galloping through puddles than on hard, frozen ground as is safer for us and the horses.
Riding out in this weather is horrible too. But you have to keep the horses going, and fair play to the stable staff who are out in all weathers. Ed Cookson [who rides for Kim Bailey] recommended I get some Galvin Green waterproofs and they’ve definitely done the trick, I’m staying nice and dry!
New Year’s resolutions
People often ask if I’ve got any New Year’s resolutions, but I don’t really set myself targets. I just want to keep riding winners and to stay fit and healthy all year round.
Obviously over Christmas like everyone else I might have over indulged a little bit, so I’ll be running and watching my weight a bit more this week!
Jockeys also spend a lot of time driving, to racecourses and riding out. I probably need to keep a better eye on my speed too — I’m building up a few points now so I need to be a bit more careful this year.
Pointing: a good start for young riders
Congratulations to Paul’s daughter Megan Nicholls who won her first point-to-point on Gwanako at Larkhill last week.
Even though she’s got good horses to ride, she rides nicely and does a good job, especially as she’s only 16.
I started out in point-to-points and loved it. Although my pointing career didn’t get off to the best start — I fell off No Way A Lady on my first ride at Black Forest Lodge and broke my collarbone…
But I did enjoy pointing. My first win was on Sea Snipe and we had 10 wins together in total, which was a great stepping stone for my racing career.
Pointing is a great sport to educate young riders. It’s the best place for British jockeys to learn their trade before riding under Rules. You can improve your race-riding skills in a safe environment, where you’re less under the public eye.
It also gives horses who are no longer racing something to do. Gwanako won the Topham Chase at Aintree in 2008, but had few options left under Rules. Pointing has given him a new lease of life and he’s loving it.
Happy New Year everyone,