2014 has been a Flat racing season to savour for both myself and everyone at David O’Meara’s Nawton yard.
Two Group 1 winners and the largest number of winners I have ever ridden in a calendar year, plus David being leading trainer again at York, means we have much to look back on with satisfaction.
Open Eagle’s victory in the final race at York – the Coldstream Guards Association Cup - last weekend was my 100th of the year and it meant that my boss stayed top of the tree at the Knavesmire.
I couldn’t quite get us the double by being leading jockey at York. A final day double meant I tied on winners with Ryan Moore, but he had one more second place. Well done to Ryan; he’s a great rider.
As well as bringing up a century of annual winners for the second year in a row, the prize-money I have earned for our owners has exceeded £1 m for the first time.
On to the horses today and tomorrow . . .
I have quite a few decent chances at Haydock this afternoon.
I was pleased with the performance of Art Charter (2pm race) on her last run. Arthur MartinLeake (3.10pm) also went fine at Pontefract last time. Both have opportunities to win.
However, my best prospect could come with Ingleby Angel in the finale at 5.25pm. He hasn’t won for a year, but he’s the best horse in this race.
Then it’s off to Ascot on Saturday for QIPCO British Champions Day. Five of the races in the British Champions Series are run at York and the showpiece finale is an occasion to look forward to with over £4 million invested in prize-money.
There’s been a lot of rain, to put it mildly, over southern England this week and the going will be testing.
I have always felt that G Force would be an even better horse when there was cut in the ground. His three wins this season, including the Ralph Raper Memorial Stakes at York during the Dante Festival and the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock, have been on good ground.
Easier conditions are one thing; heavy going on the Flat is something different. To state perhaps the obvious, it will be the horses that handle the ground that will win tomorrow.
G Force has the form in the book and he is well fancied for the Group 2 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes; as with many horses he is literally stepping into the unknown, underfoot.
There’s no question that Custom Cut will have conditions in his favour in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
He is going for a remarkable sixth win in a row – after two Listed contests, two Group 3s including the Betfred-sponsored Strensall Stakes during the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival, and a Group 2 last time at Newmarket. No horse deserves a Group 1 more than Custom Cut. He has won on heavy and he has a good chance at 3.30pm.
My third and final mount on British Champions Day is Fort Bastion in a new contest for this day, the valuable Balmoral Handicap at 4.45pm. He may be is little bit of an outsider and he is only a recent resident with us. That said, he finished second in the Listed Betfred Hambleton Stakes at York back in May, comfortably ahead of Ingleby Angel and me!
I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts about racing since this column began in May. Although I never claimed to be a tipster, if you followed some of my hunches then there were some winners along the way!
Once the Flat season on turf ends, I will be having an easier time of it. 2014 has been very busy. There is the possibility of trips overseas, perhaps with G Force to Hong Kong and David O’Meara will have horses going to Dubai.
But the next Flat season on turf will come round soon enough – and we’ll be back racing at York on Wednesday 13 May at the Dante Festival.
Details about going racing at York in 2015 can be found at www.yorkracecourse.co.uk.