Trainer Mark Walford continues to make an impact up north

Trainer Mark Walford continues to make an impact up north

THE highlight of last week was winning on Big Sound on Thursday at Uttoxeter.  Despite the name he is a great little horse so it was hugely satisfying to win for many reasons.

Mark Walford is in his second full season as a trainer and he is doing a fine job.  He is one of the best up and coming trainers around; he is going from strength to strength.

I’ve ridden several different horses for him so it is nice to be part of that. It reminds me of being involved with John Quinn and Neil Mulholland too before they got established.  Mark is a very good trainer up north, but the win on Big Sound was brilliant too because of the owners involved.

Keith Hanson is a friend of Mark’s dad, Tim.  Keith left racing years ago to set up his own transport company so it is lovely to see that he has never lost his love for the sport.

Now he is in the nice position of being able to buy a horse for the sheer enjoyment.  When most people buy a horse they aren’t doing it specifically to make money.  They just love the thrill of having a runner – to see if they will be good enough to win the races to which they are entered.

Big Sound is definitely giving them plenty of enjoyment.  In horse terms he isn’t very big, but he has now won over fences and hurdles.  Keith is very hands on and the fact that his family were there made the whole day special.

Keith is very realistic he knows the sport and he just seems to enjoy every minute.  It is brilliant to have a winner for somebody like that.

With Mark who knows what will happen in the future?  There is a great sense of involvement at his yard.  People aren’t afraid to put their voice forward and the help he receives from his mam and dad is vital too.

In a way their input allowed him to start halfway up the ladder, but at the moment I’m taking great pleasure and satisfaction working with him.

I always seem to be digging and digging, that is just the way it is at the moment.  Last week was quiet enough overall so that success made things a little easier.

Perhaps if it was in the middle of winter when I’d be doing 2,000 miles a week I wouldn’t have the time to appreciate this type of a victory, but it is important too to enjoy the wins.

Now I just hope that Big Sound can build on the performance.  The race was a step up for him so it will be interesting to see if he can go a small bit higher again.

The main focus this week will be on Royal Ascot.  I’m looking forward to watching it.  Really it is the Cheltenham of flat racing.

What is interesting is the fact that horses are being sent over from America and South Africa for it.  The prize money isn’t as good here compared to there.  Owners and trainers simply want the prestige of having a winner at Royal Ascot.  That is a good thing.

There is so much emotion still in horse racing.  Watching Saturday night’s documentary about Henry Cecil and his bond with Frankel showed how much the game means to people.

On Monday I drove to Lambourn to school a horse.  I did it for free because my hope would be that something good will come out of it for me in the future.

Watching the Henry Cecil story was a reminder of how special racing can be.  It all seemed to go a bit quiet for Henry Cecil until Frankel popped up.  Sometimes you just get an attachment with a horse.

You can’t even explain why.  I remember as a young lad in Mattie O’Toole’s yard a horse called Tame Deer.  He had bad joints, but he was a little star, he had a massive engine.  I grew an attachment when I started in the yard as an 11 year old.  When I left as a 15 year old I found it very difficult.

Over here Kings Quay was another horse.  He was such a character.  He was a horse that lacked in confidence, but like a human when he got confident he became cocky.  I won a lot of races on him including a big handicap on Grand National Day at Aintree.

Then I had great success on Midnight Chase for Neil Mulholland, who believed in the horse.  Mainly because he believed in the horse so much I grew increasingly attached to the horse.

I hope to continue getting a few rides on the flat in the next few weeks.  At the moment it is difficult for jump jockeys.  There might only be 40 or 50 races in the week and you might have up to 100 jockeys looking for a ride.

Being quiet can have some advantages for instance last weekend my mum was able to come over.  So it was nice to spend time with her and Aoife.

For the rest of the summer I will keep doing what I’m doing.  I might even go over to America once or twice too.  It is something I did a couple of years ago.

I could go for a weekend.  The money is better; I was there for a £800,000 jump racing card.  The racing takes place in the middle of a Festival setting with bands playing.  It is a bit different, but it was an unbelievable experience.