It has been a fantastic season for jump racing and Sandown Park on Saturday, 27 April, closed it in style. Champions were crowned and equine stars were paraded — and both were shown huge affection by the large crowd of true jump racing fans.
Sandown is a natural amphitheatre and Saturday’s racing did not disappoint. The awesome Altior took his total to 19 on the trot in the Celebration Chase. Nicky Henderson has trained this horse to perfection and the same can be said about his jockey, Nico de Boinville, for his remarkable riding.
The newly crowned champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, scooped two races, while Nicky Henderson matched that — the last day of the season very much reminiscent of the previous 12 months.
Rekindle the dream
This season, Tiger Roll has won the hearts and minds of all racegoers. He is a pocket rocket who just loves jumping, and his second Grand National victory was a race to savour.
In fact, Ireland took most of the honours during this National Hunt campaign, especially when it came to the “big three” — the Gold Cup, Grand National, and the Irish Grand National.
Willie Mullins, again champion trainer in Ireland, laid his “bogey race” to bed when Al Boum Photo won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and a few weeks later Burrows Saint won the Irish Grand National. Willie is a master trainer but what a relief for him to win those two races — he has now won them all. Ireland produced the new champion hurdler, too, in the shape of Espoir D’Allen.
It almost feels like Ireland took all the big prizes. My yard also enjoyed a good season this side of the Irish Sea. Younevercall, owned by one of our racing partnerships, won the Grade Two bet365 Select Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday, and took our season total to 51 wins with a 19% strike rate — of the 51, four were Grade Twos. Charbel won the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, Rocky’s Treasure won the bet365 December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster and Vinndication won the Noel Chase at Ascot.
My aim all year has been to produce youngsters for the future — chasers in the making — and try to rekindle the dream of winning a Cheltenham Gold Cup or Grand National again.
It is always hard to find these future stars but we have finished our season with a great bunch of youngsters, including nine bumper winners. No resting on our laurels though, the sales season is ahead and we have new champions to find.
Finally, I would like to thank my loyal, supportive owners and wonderful staff; without them I would have to be doing something else. On that note, I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings over this National Hunt season and, who knows, I might even be asked back next season!
Ref Horse & Hound; 2 May 2019