Cheltenham fever is in the air

Cheltenham fever is in the air

THIS is a week when the whole sporting world is focused on racing. Cheltenham fever is in the air, but on Monday morning I walked past the hurdle at Stratford where I broke my right ankle four years ago.

It was a real reminder to never take anything for granted. Jason Maguire suffered a terrible injury there at the track too so for many jockeys the day before the Festival can be like Friday the 13th for us.

As I've got older I realise that things can change very quickly in this game. Of course there always is a buzz attached to Cheltenham and Aintree because racing is very much in the public eye at these times, but you always have to stay grounded and realistic.

Last weekend you could see that everyone is revved up for Cheltenham. There were a lot of false starts in races and that can be very frustrating. Some horses can benefit from a false start when they get to go off from a standing position, others - especially novices' can't seem to manage it at all. When the fields are big it is tremendously hard, it isn't a nice feeling when it doesn't go the way you want it to. The only thing you console yourself with is that an inexperienced horse will learn from it - that is what you hope.

On Sunday I went to Market Rasen to ride Fort Worth for Jonjo O'Neill. I had picked up a ride on Fort Worth at Wetherby in October when AP McCoy stood himself down and he won. So going to Market Rasen I thought it would be a point and steer job which would lead to an easy win. Unfortunately it wasn't to be. Sometimes as a jockey you have to be grateful that you ride for trainers like Jonjo O'Neill, who is very understanding.

The horse eventually fell, but the reason it fell was because it was already beaten. Jonjo has a great yard, he knows about the ups and downs in the game, but still for me it was bitterly disappointing not to get a win. I had hoped I would so it would put me into good form ahead of this week.

At Cheltenham you want to have success and I have a few decent each way shots. They will all be fairly big prices, but being honest I wouldn't place too much emphasis on that. The horses mightn't be hugely fancied, but I'm happy enough with them. There is no pressure except the pressure you put on yourself.

I never really care about the price of a horse, I just want the horse to win. Trainers who use me know that a plan can often change in a race. That is just the way it is, the older you get the more you realise this. If I can get a few of these runners at Cheltenham into the first five everybody will be happy. You put pressure on yourself, I like that kind of pressure, you want to do your level best.

My agent also thinks I have a chance of picking up a few good spare rides too during the week because I can do 10 stone fairly easily. I'm one of the stronger jockeys at 10 stone; there are only a handful in the weighing room who can do that naturally. So it will be interesting to see what develops closer to the races.

At a preview for Cheltenham at the weekend as a value bet I tipped AP McCoy to win the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, and Champion Chase as a treble. There is usually a story or two at Cheltenham and AP McCoy has a shout in those races, it would be a fitting way for him to leave the Festival.


Friday -Cheltenham Gold Cup, 3.20- Carlingford Lough

Saturday Betfred Midlands Grand National, Uttoxeter 3.50: Fill the Power (each way)