All the talk recently has been about Big Buck’s.
I’ve found myself in the press a lot the past week, following the announcement that Sam Twiston-Davies will ride him in his comeback race in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Ruby Walsh has ridden him in 16 out of his 18 consecutive wins [AP McCoy was up for the other two] and, with Ruby now as Willie Mullins’ number one in Ireland, there had been plenty of speculation over who would get the ride.
At the end of the day, it is the decision of Paul Nicholls and Big Buck’s owner Andy Stewart.
Big Buck’s has been off for more than a year now with an injury and I’m very much looking forward to seeing him run. Everyone is hoping he’ll be back at his best.
I’ve worked him at Exeter racecourse and schooled him a couple of times at home and he’s in great order. It’s now up to Sam.
Sam’s a good friend of mine and, while it’s a complicated situation, I wish them both all the best and I’m looking forward to seeing the new partnership.
It’s been a testing week for me, though, as the media all want answers. But I’ve said all I have to say and I’m looking forward to the future.
It’s always difficult when people are writing things about you, but it’s part of the job as a jockey — it’s the same in any sport when you’re in the public eye or have a high-profile job.
However, I hope at the weekend, the controversy surrounding the jockey arrangements doesn’t overshadow the horse’s comeback.
The race should be about him — as he’s the star who’s won his past 18 races — and not about who’s riding him.
Despite all that, I’m still having a good season.
Ditcheat had a great day on Saturday — Paul had four winners, two at Ascot [Bury Parade and Irish Saint], one at Taunton [Virak] and one at Haydock [Benvolio], which is a boost in a quieter time of year.
I rode Benvolio at Haydock and he’ll hopefully turn out to be a smart staying chaser. He’s already won two from three over fences and he’s an exciting prospect.
He was also my 50th winner of the season. Considering I lost so much of the season early on — I missed about four months due to my shoulder injury — it’s not too bad a tally, although, of course, I always want more.
Melodic Rendezvous put in an impressive performance on Saturday at Haydock in the Champion Hurdle trial and is back in the game as a contender for the race in March. He was disappointing in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November, but the soft ground on Saturday helped.
I was on the favourite Ptit Zig and he beat us, so congratulations to Nick Scholfield and Jeremy Scott. He’ll be an interesting one come March.
January is always a quiet month for Paul’s horses, before everything gets busy again before Cheltenham. The horses have their flu jabs and Paul heads off to Barbados for 10 days.
With various meetings off due to the weather and waterlogging, it’s been fairly calm.
I generally ride out six days a week anyway, whether I’m racing or not. If I’m not at the races, I spend most of my time working on fitness and at the gym.
I’ve not played golf since my operation last July so might swing a club this week if I have a day off and see how the shoulder holds up.
There are two big Festival trials days at the weekend — one at Cheltenham and one at Doncaster. I’m not sure where I’ll be riding yet, but we have some nice horses heading to both.
It should be an interesting weekend, with some good pointers for the Festival in March.