It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I’ve had a good few winners, which is a massive boost after my shoulder injury.
Tingle Creek day at Sandown [7 December] was brilliant. I rode three winners for Paul Nicholls, and he’s now at the top of the trainers’ table earlier than we’d thought.
Hinterland [in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase] was my first Grade One winner for Paul since signing as his number one this season, which was a highlight.
While I was at Sandown, there were two races run over the Grand National course at Aintree. I’ve spoken to some of the boys and the softer cored fences — which means you have a bit more leeway if you make a mistake — got the thumbs up from jockeys. So that’s looking good for April.
On Saturday at Cheltenham [14 December] I was really pleased with Sam Winner. We were quietly confident going into the race and we knew the new course at Cheltenham would suit him. He finished third here in November and he probably needed the run.
It was a great result for him and fantastic to see him galloping so well all the way, finishing ahead of the two that beat him in November [Le Bec and Shutthefrontdoor].
I was back on my old favourite Zarkandar in the International Hurdle.
Some people are saying I gave him a good ride, others are saying otherwise. The fact is he’s not a top-class two-miler any more; he’s just not good enough to be mixing it with the top ones at that level.
He tried his heart out, though, and ran a good, solid race. The plan now is to step him up to 2½ or three miles.
He was A1 after the race. He’s a cheeky devil. All the girls at the yard love him as he’s such a character — he’s a very happy horse and will take the Mickey when you’re riding him.
The New One [whom we finished second behind] was very good — he has an impressive turn of foot. But I think he’ll need to improve again on Saturday’s run to be considered a real contender for the Champion Hurdle in March. It’s exciting for the Twiston-Davies team, though.
I’m now looking forward to this weekend — we have some good entries at Ascot including Irving [novices’ hurdle on Friday], Ptit Zig [The Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle] and Celestial Halo [Long Walk Hurdle].
I’m going to try to go to Olympia after racing one evening. Last year I went for the first time and really enjoyed it, it was a great experience. It’s a really fun show and coming up to Christmas definitely gets you in the festive spirit.
There are some real top-class riders there, too — you can see some serious horsemanship. When I was younger, I did a little bit of showjumping and it’s amazing watching such a high level of jumping.
Having Scott Brash and Ben Maher at number one and two in the world is a great achievement — it’s brilliant for British horse sport and I’m looking forward to watching them both compete.
Whatever sport I’m watching, I try to take something out of it. With showjumping I really admire how the top lads get a horse to settle and jump so beautifully — especially when they sit so quietly and barely seem to move.
With showjumping and racing, you have to get your horse nice and relaxed, and you need to work together and get a good rhythm.
You can learn an awful lot from other disciplines — Harvey Smith and Yogi Breisner both employ showjumping techniques in racing and they get good results.
Last week Big Buck’s had his first schooling session over jumps since his injury that kept him out last season.
He was feeling full of himself — bucking and throwing his head around. He was on great form, the enthusiasm’s still there and Paul’s very excited about him. Hopefully, he’ll be out racing early next year.
Congratulations must go to AP McCoy for finishing third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
Andy Murray was always going to win, but finishing in the top three is a great achievement, and fantastic for racing.
It was nice to see Sir Alex Ferguson pick up the BBC Diamond Award too. I’ve ridden for him a few times and it was well deserved.