The weather’s been a bit of a pain recently, but Kempton put on a jumpers bumpers card [Flat races for National Hunt horses] on the all-weather surface on Friday (31 January), which was a great initiative from the British Horseracing Authority.
At this time of year a lot of horses need the run and trainers don’t want to slog them out in heavy ground before Cheltenham, so this was a good chance for them to have a pipe opener on a decent surface.
Riding on the all-weather is different — I wouldn’t want to do it every day — but it was a bit of fun and it keeps you thinking.
You don’t need to go wide searching for better ground so everyone gets in very tight which means you have to stay sharp — if there are five or six horses in tight to the rail you could get in trouble.
Sandown, Wetherby and Ffos Las all did a very good job going ahead on Saturday (1 February) as on Friday none of them were looking very promising.
At Ffos Las Saphir Du Rheu won the Welsh Champion Hurdle for Paul Nicholls. He’ll definitely be a horse to watch in the future and I reckon he’ll be a great 3m chaser when he steps up to that.
I was at Sandown and I’ve never ridden on it so heavy there. You’re going very slowly and you need a horse that travels. To be honest you know your fate early on, and the horses were coming back very tired.
Aidan Coleman and Venetia Williams had a brilliant day though, with a treble. Venetia’s had 18 winners this January — in what’s supposed to be a quiet time of year. Her horses are just flying — follow her in these conditions.
I went up to Musselburgh for one ride on Sunday — it’s a long way. Aidan, Sam [Twiston-Davies] and some of the other lads drove up, but I flew.
The ride I had — Funny Star — finished third, so it wasn’t a bad trip. The track didn’t suit him, but he ran well.
All the travelling is definitely one of the downsides of the job — I drive around 50,000-55,000 miles a year.
It’s worse for me because I’m down in Somerset so I travel on my own most of the time.
If you can share lifts it’s a bit better as there’s company, but also you can share the costs and have a sleep on the way to or from races, making it a lot easier.
It was great to see Big Buck’s back on the racetrack at Cheltenham. He might have been beaten, but he’ll come on for the run. You can’t really expect a horse of his age  to have a year off with a leg injury then be back at his peak.
The World Hurdle is now wide open and will be an interesting race.
It was a shock to see Knockara Beau win, he had masses to find, but he’s been around for a long time and he’s a consistent horse. He’s had a wind operation and clearly he’s benefited from that.
It’s a story for jockey Jan Faltejsek too. He’s won the Pardubika in his native country [Czech Republic] and to have a first win at Cheltenham, beating Big Buck’s, is quite an achievement.
There has been a lot of talk about wind operations at the moment, and the BHA is discussing whether they need to be declared. Both Knockara Beau and The Rainbow Hunter have had them and have won since.
At the end of the day there are no big secrets and it’s the owner and trainer’s decision. I don’t think they need to explain it, but the punters and bookies think they have a right to know, as it could mean a potential improvement.
It’s only five weeks to the Festival and trainers will want to get their horses out for a run, so look out for some good racing.