aka Gina's Joy Ride

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Studio to Saddle

We're following ATR presenter Gina Bryce as she prepares to swap her microphone for reins in the St Patrick's Day Derby at the Cheltenham Festival. Aside from all the fun of competing in front of 50,000 people, Gina is riding to raise money for Cancer Research and you can sponsor her at www.justgiving.com/ginabryce.

1 March 2012

This week the onus shifted from me onto my intended St Patrick’s Derby mount, On Khee; something we are likely to see a repeat of halfway up the infamous Cheltenham hill in two weeks time!  Having just her second start for the David Pipe team, On Khee lined up in the two mile handicap hurdle at Plumpton on Monday and performed with credit to finish second under Tom Scudamore. 

Bolting out of the studio after an inconveniently long Monday Review programme, I jumped on the train from London Victoria only to be held up by an even more inconvenient delay at Gatwick Airport. With just 45 minutes to go until On Khee’s race, we fled the train, jumped into a cab from the airport bound for Plumpton and dashed into the paddock just in the nick of time. 

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In the Plumpton paddock with Tom Scudamore and On Khee's owners.

The rush was worth it though; On Khee, looking a picture of health, was, I was pleased to see, relaxed in the paddock, which is probably more than could be said for those perspiring punters responsible for backing her into 11/10 favouritism with an almighty morning plunge. Clearly worried about the adverse effects of carrying me around Cheltenham, they decided to try and cash in now before waiting to see if she suffers any lasting damage! 

Gina is riding to raise money for Cancer Research and you can sponsor her at www.justgiving.com/ginabryce.

With Tom Scudamore given the leg up, On Khee behaved impeccably heading down to the start; another good sign that can hopefully ensure me an incident free pre race build up. Bolting to the start would not be an ideal way to prepare for 1m5f around Cheltenham it has to be said! 

My chances of keeping control pre race may be fair but they decrease significantly once the tapes are up judged on On Khee’s eagerness to get on with things in the early part of her race on Monday. Charging to the first hurdle, she clearly wasn’t in the mood for hanging around, taking a keen hold with Tom before he settled her into a still pretty pacey rhythm at the head of affairs. She opened up an early lead of several lengths and kicked on down the back straight only to be reeled in up the surprisingly stiff finish by outsider James Pollard. 

Post-race fallout concluded the ground was against her and a return to a flatter track may suit. I concluded it was an excellent prep for Cheltenham and puts me firmly back in the spotlight to make sure I don’t let her down.  The drying ground at Cheltenham and one mile five furlong trip will undoubtedly suit her. All I need to do, as I was kindly informed by her syndicate of owners, is point and fire! I assured them “firing” would certainly be no problem after On Khee has dragged me around one mile of Prestbury Park but maintaining enough fuel in the tank for the hill may be a different matter.

In addition to the words of wisdom from the Palatinate Thoroughbred Racing Syndicate, I have been lucky enough to glean some really useful advice from those that know her best.  After expressing my worry to Tom Scudamore that I would be tanked off with, he said I needed to be more concerned about stopping. He’s got a point!  I also spoke to Nicola Dumelow who won on On Khee at Windsor for Hughie Morrison and she said as long as I let her dictate the first furlong, I should be able to rein her back in once settled. Something tells me she may want to dictate more than one furlong but as long as it’s the last who am I to argue.

Gina is riding to raise money for Cancer Research and you can sponsor her at www.justgiving.com/ginabryce.