It was lovely to win the Albert Bartlett Trial at Cheltenham on Saturday with Make Good. On ratings he had as good a chance as any, it was just if he would see the trip out. John McConnell won the Cross Country Chase the day before so we knew his horses were in good form and he was fairly confident he would stay.
You need a tough horse for these three mile novice hurdles because a lot of them are often a long way off the finished article. Make Good knew what he was doing, he’d had plenty of runs on the Flat, and he travelled nicely through the race. I think they were pleasantly surprised how well he won and I’m sure he’ll get an entry in the Albert Bartlett now. You need a really battle hardened horse for that race and I’m sure they’d love to bring him over.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have had some luck for John over the years, he’s a very good trainer. He only tends to bring ones over from Ireland if he thinks they have a good chance, he certainly doesn’t bring them for the fresh air.
It was a shame Zanza fell in the handicap chase, he’d jumped and travelled really well up to that point. He got in a little bit tight at the third last and knuckled on landing. It’s a hard fence as you’re coming downhill and he’s a novice who is still learning. It was too far out to know what would have happened but I was happy with the way he was travelling.
He’s had four runs already this season so he’ll have a small break now and we’ve always thought better ground would suit. You’re likely to see him again in the spring when I’m sure some of those decent handicaps will be on his agenda.
St Barts was great at Newbury on Wednesday, he’s a progressive staying chaser. He’ll do well this year but he’s the type who will improve even more over the next few seasons. I didn’t really want to make the running on him but he stays well so I wanted to make use of that. It was only his second run over fences so you’d have to be very pleased.
FREDDY FANATAPAN – 12.40pm Ascot
I won on him at Exeter last month when he did it nicely. He’s a bit of a character and this is a step up in grade, but if he can reproduce it he will go close. The second has won at Wetherby since so the form is strong and you certainly couldn’t rule him out.
SMARTY WILD – 1.50pm Ascot
I was down at Philip’s [Hobbs] on Wednesday to school him and he was in fine form. He just got taken off his feet at Wetherby last time where his inexperience caught him out. A stiffer track and slightly slower ground will help him, and he ran well here on his first start over fences at the end of October.
This is a very competitive race but he’s on the upgrade and it’s a bonus that Philip’s horses have really come into form. I thought he’d go very close at Wetherby and he’s definitely on a reasonable mark.
THYME HILL – 2.25pm Ascot
We’ve been excited about him all through the summer, you just never know if they’re going to be good enough to make that step up from novice to open company. He wasn’t far behind Envoi Allen in the Champion Bumper and was then unlucky in the Albert Bartlett so he’s always run in the top races and his form is rock solid. Having a horse like him to ride certainly makes getting up at 4.30am a lot easier!
I schooled him on Wednesday and he was foot perfect. He came out of the Newbury race really well and Philips’ been delighted with him. I think he’s the one they all have to beat but it’s a strong renewal and he will have to put up a very good performance to win.
Paisley Park was giving us weight at Newbury and we know how good he is. Roksana was impressive at Wetherby and is a previous Festival winner, while Main Fact is a massive improver and no-one knows how good he is yet. It’s a very good race but I wouldn’t swap Thyme Hill for anything else. He’s a very straightforward horse and has always shown the right kind of attitude. That is vital in a race like the Long Walk because from Swinley Bottom to the line it’s really hard work. You need a horse that puts his head down and gives you everything – he’s that kind of horse.
OAKLEY – 3.35pm Ascot
He’s in very good order and I was really pleased with him at Wetherby on his first run back. He was a decent novice last season and he’s maturing all the time. He’ll definitely have come on for that run.
This is wide open handicap and you will need a horse that stays very well. I’m sure he will go two and a half miles at some point, so stamina won’t be a problem. He should cope with the ground and he has strengthened up over the summer so he should have a decent each-way chance in what is a fiercely competitive race.