Tom Scudamore fancies a Shotavodka this afternoon
My first ride is on Shotavodka in the 2.15 at Newbury. He ran really well last time at Doncaster. He’s a lot lower than when he last won and I think he’s got a cracking chance tomorrow. These veterans’ chases are always competitive but he should go well. He’s come out of his last run well, surprisingly well as he’d had a tough race at Exeter the time before that. He loves his racing and I’m hopeful of a very good show.
In the 2.50 I ride Gabrial The Great. When he started his hurdling career he looked like a superstar but things haven’t gone his way since then. I’m hoping he’ll get things back in the right direction today. He did disappoint me a little at Wincanton so hopefully he’ll produce a bit more today.
In the 4.00 I’m on Ikrapol. I don’t know an awful lot about him but I have ridden him at home. I saw his recent runs. He ran OK last time at Wetherby and on that form he’ll have a bit of a squeak. That second run was a lot better than his first run, so hopefully he’ll progress again on his third start for us tomorrow. I don’t mind four year olds taking on their elders as they get a handy weight allowance. It’s a tactic David has been very successful with in the past, and I know he likes to do it as the weight allowance makes a big difference for the right horse. Ikrapol looked like he was up to it last time, as he appears to be a tough, hardy sort. That’s what you want; a horse that isn’t going to be phased running in an all age handicap.
I ride Take A Break for Nigel Hawke in the 4.35 over fences for the first time. I won a novice hurdle on him. It looks like he’s got it all to do today. What I know about Silver Kayf, my ride in the last race at 5.10 is that he is by Kayf Tara and cost £30,000. Apart from that I know absolutely nothing. It’s one of those sales races. Kim Bailey’s horses are usually ready to go and he’s got a reasonable record in bumpers. I’ve always enjoyed riding for him and hopefully this afternoon Kim will tell me he’s been working the house down and is a steering job, but we’ll have to see. Kim’s a good man to ride for. He’s very straightforward and I’ve had a lot of success for him, especially in my younger years.
It was great to see Victoria Pendleton win at Wincanton in the week. Whether she is ready to ride at Cheltenham we’ll have to wait and see, but I’ve seen worse ride at the Festival. It’s going to be a very different challenge for her at Cheltenham with twenty four runners, but at least she’s shown that she has a good seat. It was great for her and great for Racing when she won this week, and my respect for her knows no bounds.
There are a few things that set Cheltenham apart from what she’s experienced so far. Of course the undulations are a challenge but she’s ridden around Fakenham and Wincanton and they aren’t easy tracks. Wincanton has quite big fences and it’s a sharp track. For a novice rider it’s quite difficult so I don’t think the challenge of the actual course at Cheltenham will phase her too much. The problem she will have is that the Foxhunter will be a much better class of opposition. The only reason Pacha Du Polder wasn’t odds-on at Wincanton was because of the doubts about Victoria after what happened at Fakenham. On all known form he was almost a certainty. Yes you could give Big Fella Thanks a chance of sorts on his old form but he’s now fourteen, so Pacha Du Polder was entitled to win as he did.
At Cheltenham there will be horses that will be able to lie up with her, and go faster than her. The combination of better quality horses and more experienced riders will present a much bigger test for her. Even twenty four runners at the start will be a big challenge. The chances are it will end up a standing start. The whole thing will be much more of a test.
With ten days to go to Cheltenham I’m very happy with things. All the horses are running well and I’m just taking it day by day as usual. I have five rides today Newbury and that’s what I’m thinking about. I’m aware Cheltenham is around the corner. I had the CoralTV boys round filming this morning, and they don’t come down just because Lottie cooks a good breakfast, but apart from that it’s business as usual. It’s harder for the trainers as the days count down to the Festival than it is for the jockeys.
Next week I will go down one morning and sit on a whole load of David’s horses. We’ll be working out which horses will go for which race. It’s a real merry-go-round as to who goes where. There are so many moving parts in terms of which horses end up in which race, trying to find each on their best opportunity. That’s why so much depends on what Willie Mullins does as he holds the aces in so many races. There are so many imponderables. Ultimately it’s David’s decision but he might say to me with a particular horse in mind, if he can’t get in the two and a half mile race, are we better going up to three miles, or back to 2 miles instead, and I’ll feed in my thoughts.