Daryl Jacob: Looking forward to our ‘Olympics’ [H&H VIP]

  • Everything is about Cheltenham now. It’s only a few days away.

    Paul’s [Nicholls] horses are running really well and in good form coming into the Festival. I’ve had about eight or nine winners in the past couple of weeks, which is a nice boost in the run-up to the big week.

    I’ve also done a couple of Cheltenham previews recently and you should get to one if you can. They are entertaining and you can pick up some good tips.

    I’m really looking forward to the Festival and I have some nice horses to ride, including Sam Winner, Al Ferof, Calipto and Dodging Bullets. They are good rides on paper — I now just need a bit of luck on the day.

    I’m most looking forward to riding Al Ferof in either the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair Chase. If he’s come back to his best form, he’ll have a great chance.

    He’s had three satisfactory runs since coming back from injury this season — winning at Ascot, third in the King George at Kempton and second at Newbury. The ground was too soft for him there, though, so on ground that suits him better he should improve.

    I’m also looking forward to riding Diamond Harry in the cross-country race. I haven’t actually ridden him since we won the Hennessy in 2010, so it will be good to be reunited with him.

    Plus he’s a good horse around that type of course — he’s even been to France to run in cross-country races.

    I know the race at the Festival divides opinions, but it’s a good one as a jockey. It’s something different and is fun to have a hunt round — when you’re on a decent horse.

    There is, of course, a lot of pressure going into Cheltenham — after all, it’s our equivalent of the Olympics.

    In the run-up to the Festival, you don’t think about it too much because you’re busy doing your day job, racing and riding out. But in the evenings you get a bit more excited and look forward to your rides.

    The atmosphere for the week in the Cheltenham weighing room is different to other meetings — everyone changes a bit. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get nervous.

    Some of the lads who are usually really quiet suddenly become chatty, whereas the louder ones can go silent.

    My dad’s coming over from Ireland for the Festival, so we’ll be going up and down from Somerset every day. After racing I’ll go home, have a little bit to eat and watch the replays. Then I’ll study the form for the next day.

    There’s lots of tension and people expect a lot from you.

    There’s a fair bit of pressure being on some of the top horses, but it’s brilliant. It’s a unique four days. The roar of the crowd at the first race and the crowd and the music coming back into the winner’s enclosure all add to the atmosphere.

    Although Twitter is there to be fun, we jockeys don’t always have the best time with it.

    There are often people and punters on there giving you unfair criticism and it does get you down when it’s constant.

    It’s worse if you get beaten on a favourite — which does happen, nothing’s certain. Riding for Paul, I’m often on a favourite and they don’t always win. When they lose, you get bombarded with abuse.

    You’ll know if you’ve given something a bad ride and the last thing you need is people having a go at you. But, equally, a lot of it is unjustified.

    People hide behind Twitter and use it to say whatever they like, things they wouldn’t say to your face.

    So I’ve decided to come off it and a few of the other lads are thinking the same thing. We’re here to promote racing — not to get abused for doing our jobs.