3LB RISE WON’T STOP PAINT THE DREAM GETTING OFF THE MARK OVER FENCES
6th - Crowne Plaza Jockey & Trainer Awards Handicap, Dundalk, Friday 6th December
Having finished sixth on his first start for Denis Hogan over 2m, Noble Expression was dropped back to 1m2½f and shaped well over what looked an inadequate test of stamina. Dropped out at the start to get across to the rail on the short run to the first bend, he was detached off the back of the main pack and raced a bit lazily with Joey Sheridan briefly having to push him along just before entering the back straight. He latched on to the back of the pack going down the back straight but continued to show signs of laziness with Sheridan urging him along more vigorously at various stages. He was still in second last just over a furlong out before finishing strongly to only be beaten 2¾ lengths in sixth. Noble Expression has been inconsistent throughout his career but this run showed that he still has a good level of ability and he looks capable of winning off his now 1lb lower mark of 76 over the winter. A step back up in trip will help and he won in cheekpieces and blinkers during his time with Jim Boyle so it may be that a reapplication of some headgear will see him race sweeter.
PAINT THE DREAM
2nd - Simon Jennings Memorial Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, Taunton, Friday 6th December
After an unlucky unseat at the second fence on chasing debut at Taunton, Paint The Dream bounced back with a fine run in defeat at Sandown. Having raced in mid division from the off, he made headway at the railway fences on the final circuit and was travelling well in second leaving the back straight. He continued to travel strongly and looked set to mount a challenge to Dashing Perk at 2 out when that rival edged very slightly to the left just before taking off. That appeared to disrupt Paint The Dream who then got in close, pitched badly on landing and did well to stay upright, costing him ground and momentum at a crucial stage. He responded well to pressure and stayed on up the hill but couldn’t challenge Dashing Perk and finished 2½ lengths behind him in second. Without the mistake at 2 out, I think Paint The Dream would have won so the 3lb rise still leaves him on what could be a lenient mark of 130 and it may not be long before he gets off the mark over fences.
AS DE MEE
6th - Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase (Grade 3), Aintree, Saturday 7th December
As De Mee has had plenty of experience over the national fences, including when winning the Grand Sefton in 2016, and he ran well over them once again in the Becher on his second start back after a tendon injury. Handy throughout, he jumped well apart from one mistake at 4 out, and pulled away from the field alongside Walk In The Mill on the run to 2 out. Having jumped 2 out upsides the eventual winner, he started to tire on the run to the last and then had little left on the long run in, coming home 19 lengths behind Walk In The Mill in sixth. On ground that was softer than ideal for him and over a trip that looks to stretch his stamina, this was a good run and he’s likely to be a leading contender for the Topham if he lines up there.
2nd - Club Active Gym INH Flat Race, Navan, Saturday 7th December
A faller when odds on favourite for a maiden at Dromahane on debut, Julies Stowaway returned in the bumper at Navan after almost a year off and performed with great credit. Having raced in fifth for much of the contest, Richie Deegan moved him a little closer turning the final bend and tracked Wide Receiver into the straight. Nudged along when the pace quickened, Julies Stowaway initially showed some inexperience under firmer pressure before responding well and staying on strongly late to finish second, beaten 2¾ lengths. This was a promising first start under rules from Julies Stowaway in what appeared to be a strong bumper and he looks to have a good future ahead of him on this evidence.
ENCOUNTER A GIANT
UR - Fitzdares Crosseys Jockey Coaching Novices’ Chase, Huntingdon, Sunday 8th December
Encounter A Giant put up some very good performances in point to points and he built on those on his first start under rules after a 294-day break. He raced prominently from the start and looked to just about be travelling best going to 3 out. He was joined for the lead by Tarada once again turning out of the back and started to be nudged along going down the side of the course on the long run to 2 out. He was a length down and still hadn’t come under serious pressure when he got in too close to 2 out and unseated Liam Treadwell. He had made a couple of novicey mistakes at around halfway but generally Encounter A Giant jumped well and this was an encouraging start under rules in a strong novices’ chase.
JOCKEYS TO WATCH
Pieces on jump jockeys to follow often focus on those who have just ridden a notable winner, were stars on the pony racing circuit and/or are already well-established conditionals. However, that also means that it’s likely that everyone is already well aware of their talents and the betting market is too. Therefore, while I could put forward the likes of Ben Jones (who is having a remarkable season), Jack Tudor (who continues to impress and rode a double on Saturday) and Bryan Carver (who gave the tricky Nifty At Fifty a superb ride at Wincanton), in this column I will be aiming to highlight jockeys whose talents have yet to be widely identified.
It took only two rides under rules for Liam Harrison to get off the mark, winning on Magical Thomas at Stratford, and one fewer in point to points, winning on his first ride on Tom Barton at Larkhill. The 17-year-old has moved this season to work for Fergal O’Brien and has built up a good rapport with Petite Power on whom Harrison has won two races and was narrowly denied a third victory at Exeter. In the second of those wins at Uttoxeter, he showed calmness and confidence in his own judgement when not worrying as Coopers Square and Goodnight Charlie went clear shortly before the straight and waited before gradually closing the margin and going on to victory. It is very encouraging for his future that he already looks polished in the saddle so early in his career and I think we will be seeing Harrison’s name in headlines in years to come.
Not all talented jockeys are precocious, as highlighted most notably in recent years by the rise through the ranks of Rachael Blackmore. While Millie Wonnacott has an awful long way to go to match Blackmore’s achievements, her progress in the last 18 months suggests that with a bit of luck and the right opportunities, she could have a good career ahead of her in the saddle. Much of that progress has been seen in the pointing field where she had a 30% strike rate last season and is already on the board this season after a winner at Wadebridge on Sunday. She has shown herself to have a good tactical mind and be strong in a finish, and her skills have been on show under rules, often riding some less than straightforward customers (24 of her last 30 mounts have worn blinkers, cheekpieces or a visor). If she continues to improve in the manner that she has over the last 18 months, Wonnacott can become a force to be reckoned with in the amateur ranks and possibly, depending on the career path that she wishes to take, as a professional too.