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Marching on to York

22 Aug 2017

It’s not been an easy week or so following the suspension I picked up at Goodwood. It’s never much fun for a jockey being on the sidelines whether it’s through a suspension or an injury, but it’s part and parcel of the sport and we move on. I’ve spent the time the best way I could- riding out and getting over to see my family back in Ireland. However, I am now raring to get back into the swing of things and have a busy schedule coming up.

All roads lead to York at this time of year, and the Ebor Festival races have attracted some really big names in 2017. None more so than the Juddmonte International on Wednesday which is a select 7-runner field blessed with lots of talent. The three-year-olds will be getting weight from the older horses, which include Churchill, Barney Roy, Cliffs Of Moher and Shutter Speed. There seems to be some confidence emerging behind Churchill from connections. He’s a 2000 Guineas winner who I think will improve for the step up in trip on Wednesday and is clearly thought of in high regard. The other O’Brien horse Cliffs Of Moher seems to have been forgotton a little bit. The Epsom Derby favourite may not be the choice of Ryan Moore but I’m sure Seamie Heffernan won’t mind getting the leg up on him. I don’t see him being used as a pacemaker but I can see him making the running in this small field.

Saying that the one I’d like to be on would be Ulysses. I thought he travelled as well as the superstar filly Enable in the King George which impressed me very much. He’s a horse who has improved and improved each race and the long straight on the Knavesmire should suit his style of running down to the ground. The trip will also be his optimum, and he is my pick for the feature on Wednesday although there’s 5 horses in this who it wouldn’t surprise me if any of them were to win.

On Thursday the Champions Series race is the Yorkshire Oaks which has a less competitive look than the Juddmonte, purely because Enable has been so outstanding this season. She’s going to be incredibly hard to beat in this. Nezwaah has been backed this week with Roger Varian in good form. She won well in Ireland but I’m not sure how strong that form is. Queen’s Trust will also need to step up on recent performance to challenge Frankie Dettori on the favourite who, to add further confidence, will be receiving weight for her age. Coronet is the outsider who I think will run well in this. Frankie told me when she won first time at Leicester that she was very talented and ran a cracker at Royal Ascot. Whether she’s good enough to beat Enable I’m not sure, but I think she could easily get into the frame.

The Great Voltigeur is also a nice race just before the Juddmonte takes place. The red-hot favourite in this is of course John Gosden‘s Cracksman who was perhaps a shade unlucky in the Irish Derby, where Seamie Heffernan gave Capri an unbelievable ride from the front that day. I’ve been on Mirage Dancer in the past who I don’t think we have seen the best of yet, who is a clear second favourite for this. Venice Beach also lines up, and his best form would bring him into the equation. You can’t discount Douglas Macarthur either who brings some strong front-running form into this too. My ride is Count Octave who, like Mirage Dancer, we haven’t seen the best of yet. He will have to step up to get involved in this, but he’s more than capable of it. This will be his minimum trip and will almost certainly want further in the future.

To start my day at York I ride Line Of Reason who I am very familiar with. I feel the fast track there is going to suit him and Paul Midgeley certainly knows how to train his sprinters. Anything he puts in front of you, you have to be looking forward to.

I get the ride on Star Rider in the 4.15 before heading off to Kemptom for my evening rides. I love to get the call from Hughie Morrison, he’s a great trainer who has supplied me with quite a few winners. Star Rider isn’t badly weighted in this and hopefully she’ll run a good race in a tough looking handicap.

On Thursday my first ride is Marnie James who won at this track last time. These can be rough races and you need a bit of luck to win them. There’s some strong runners in this race, with Epsom winner De Bruyne Horse catching the eye, but I’m hoping mine can go well off a low weight.

I’ve chosen Special Purpose over Natural in the Lowther Stakes, purely for the reason that she will appreciate the fast ground more. Like all races here this week there are rivals aplenty. I’d be very interested to see if Aidan runs Actress who is a tough, hardy filly and, if she does line up, I think will have the beating of the American runner Happy Like A Fool.

In the lucky last I take the ride on Summer Chorus who is an improving filly, Andrew Balding and his team have done an excellent job with her. She hasn’t been the easiest to train, but she ran a cracker last time at Newmarket which was close to a career best. Last time she ran to that level she won the next time out.  I wouldn’t swap her for much in this race because when a sprinter comes into form like she has, they tend to hit the jackpot at some stage and hopefully that will be on Thursday.

Horse To Follow: Brandon Castle, Friday @ Salisbury 7.55

Form of his Wolverhampton win is strong and hopefully he can go in again