CHAMP OUT TO TAKE GRADE 1 TITLE
I’m heading back across the water tomorrow for a couple of exciting rides at Newbury, the main one of which is definitely the Nicky Henderson-trained CHAMP in the Betway Challow Novices’ Hurdle (3.00).
Champ is out of a half-sister to Best Mate and really is a gorgeous horse. I thought he put up a great performance on his comeback run in a handicap hurdle at Newbury last time. To run as freely as he did and still finish off the race as well as he did was very impressive.
It surprised us that he raced that freely, as that wouldn’t really be his way. I’ve ridden him in plenty of work and he’s always nice and relaxed. Maybe he was just a bit fresh and lit up on what was his first run of the season and hopefully he’ll be back to his relaxed self here.
He’s a horse Nicky has always liked a lot and that performance was a really strong step in the right direction. This is obviously a big step up for him into Grade 1 novice hurdle company, but I’d be hopeful he’ll be up to it. I wouldn’t be swapping him for anything else in the race, that’s for sure.
He’s a horse that Nicky seemed to like before his first run for him at Newcastle and he did it quite well on the day. It wasn’t the hottest race in the world on paper, but it did ride like a decent race. This race has attracted a big field and he has to give weight away to them all, but I think he’ll be capable of a nice bit of improvement.
While he won a point-to-point, he felt comfortable at two miles last time, so that wouldn’t be a worry for me here. Hopefully he can take another step in the right direction.
BRILLIANT CARLINGFORD WAS A PLEASURE TO RIDE
Before I finish up, I have to mention CARLINGFORD LOUGH, who suffered a fatal heart attack after crossing the line in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown yesterday.
It was really sad for everyone. He had been a brilliant horse. There was plenty of spark left in him and while it was a pity for it to end as it did for him, he was doing what he loved best to the end.
I was lucky enough to win the Punchestown Gold Cup on him back in 2016 when he came with a strong late run as he tended to do. He was a really fun horse to ride as while you knew he probably wasn’t going to travel that well and would get outpaced, you knew he’d power home for you.
I remember riding him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2016 and typically he had got outpaced. I was upsides Patrick Mullins riding On His Own at the third-last fence and we were both essentially tailed off at the time. Patrick shouts over to me “I bet I beat you!”, knowing his lad stays all day and would finish off the race well.
I could feel Carlingford Lough starting to get going under me, so I said “game on!” I promise you, he took off like Arazi and ended up getting up for fourth by a nose with Patrick more than 30 lengths behind me! That was just his way.
He was a pleasure to ride and great to have an association with. It’s just very sad for JP and especially for the Kiely family, as he was their flagship horse for so many years.