It’s just been revealed to me that I am currently the busiest jockey in Britain, after 52 rides in the last fortnight. It certainly feels like it with all the miles I’ve driven, but I’m sticking to racing in Yorkshire for the next two days.
The ground on Knavesmire this week has been nothing short of outstanding. It’s a tremendous credit to the racecourse staff that they have been able to provide us with superb conditions in which to race. There are no excuses for horses not going well with the turf being in such great nick.
I hit the bar with North Yorkshire trainer Mick Easterby’s Hoofalong when second by just half a length in the ripleycollection.com EBF Novice Stakes on the opening day of the Dante Festival. It was a very encouraging racecourse debut by the two-year-old colt.
This afternoon my best chance of getting a winner on the board comes with Shamdarley.
He’s got the ground that he likes and a lovely draw in stall five in the sportingbet.com Stakes at 4.10pm. Trainer Michael Dods’s course and distance winner is in fine form at home and we are hopeful of a really big run from him although, as always at York, the racing will be very competitive indeed.
My weighing room colleague Philip Makin was in the saddle when Shamdarley won over the same mile and a quarter last autumn at York. I can certainly see the four-year-old being there at the business end of the race and filling a place at least.
I ride another previous York Racecourse winner in the 2pm Sportingbet Jorvik Stakes. Indeed, Itlaaq ran five times on Knavesmire last summer. His victory came over two miles in July, though he’s back to one and a half miles today. He hasn’t raced since the November Handicap on the final day of the 2011 Flat turf season, but Mick Easterby’s horses are in form.
The highlight of the last day of the Dante Festival is the Group 2 Sportingbet Yorkshire Cup. Eight horses will go to post, headed by Godolphin’s Be Fabulous and the 2010 St Leger winner Arctic Cosmos. The favourite though could be Harris Tweed, trained in Newmarket by Yorkshireman-in-exile William Haggas. While many people in racing will have their attention tomorrow firmly fixed on the reappearance of the world’s greatest thoroughbred Frankel in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury Racecourse, I’m riding at Thirsk in the afternoon followed by Doncaster in the evening.
My agent Richard Hale – he’s the one who has been getting all those rides for me in the last fortnight – believes he has found a very good prospect in the 4.40pm race at Thirsk.
Hallmark Star is trained by Gerard Butler in Newmarket. He hasn’t won in his five career outings to date, but he has been placed on his last four runs including a runner-up spot at Pontefract last month.
It’s believed he will have a big chance in the division one of the maiden race tomorrow in North Yorkshire.
After the conclusion to the Dante Festival, I don’t expect it will be long before I am back at York Races. There are just eight days until the May Spring Meeting. The corresponding fixture 12 months ago was a memorable one for Eddie Ahern because he rode a three-timer in the space of just 65 minutes.
The first race on the final day of the Dante Festival at York Racecourse is at 1.30pm. Admission to the Course Enclosure, Grandstand & Paddock and County Stand ranges from £5 to £30. Gates open from 11.15am. After the Festival, there’s more racing on Knavesmire at the May Spring Meeting on Saturday, May 26. The first race time is currently scheduled for 2.05pm, with on-the-day admission ranging from £7 to £35. More information at www.yorkracecourse.co.uk or by calling the racecourse on 01904 620911