Have we ever needed a sport or occasion in our lives as much as we do now? I think a lot of us are feeling the worse for it as we head into tighter Covid restrictions. The Leopardstown Christmas Festival, however, is a little something to keep us racing fans sane. I for one can’t wait to sit down by the fire and watch top class horses and jockeys do their job.
When I was riding I always played down the Christmas meeting in my head as just another day at work. The reason why I did this was to try not get ahead of myself and let nerves get the better of my thoughts. Now as a racing fan I can really look at it more objectively and see what it means for horse form, jockey form, trainer form, Cheltenham prices etc. There really is a lot to learn from these four days in Dublin.
As a rider you are really looking for your form to be solid at Christmas. You want the horses you feel can deliver a Grade 1 for you to run to the best of their ability. How they perform can tell you a lot for the rest of the season whether they win or not.
You also want to see your trainer’s other horses hitting form. You can ride on the back of the yard’s confidence, and even though you can’t ride every one of them, it gives you a boost to see the other horses hitting their stride. If the horses are going well in general, it makes it easier to decide how to approach things with your horse. You have the confidence to keep things simple and that if you put your horse in the right spot, it will perform.
It is such a load off a jockey’s mind to start the first day of Leopardstown with a winner. Everything just seems to flow much easier when you’ve had a winner, as I’ve said it is a confidence game. While I’ve had that positive feeling, I’ve also seen the other side of the coin. If your horses are struggling to get placed, you question yourself and wonder what you are doing wrong. This can make you tense on a horse you otherwise really fancy to win. You want and need the win so badly, it becomes easy to start making mistakes.
This year everything is going to be that bit harder for everyone involved. It would be a very interesting year to stand outside the ring to get a look at the runners as they parade. As things stand, I’m just happy to know that despite Covid the flag will drop on Saturday and we will have some great racing to watch. I’ll also have some added interest this year as I keep an eye on my Ten To Follow stable.