We really were thrilled with Thyme Hill at Newbury last Friday, everything went perfectly to plan. Nobody wanted to make the running at the start and it was actually nice not to have a gruelling test on his first start of the season. I was really impressed with the way he picked up from the back of the second last, he showed some speed.
Paisley Park also ran very well and he obviously had a setback at Cheltenham. He is entitled to improve for the race and will be a big danger in March, but Thyme Hill has only had five runs over hurdles so he should improve a swell.
It’s lovely to have a horse like him to look forward to and he’s come out of the race really well. I’m still frustrated about what happened in the Albert Bartlett in March and I’m sure if we’d had a clear run he would have gone very close. It would be nice to make up for that at Cheltenham in March.
I was impressed with the way Zanza finished his race in the closing handicap chase. It gave Allmankind a form boost ahead of his run at Sandown on Saturday as we weren’t able to get near him at Warwick. Zanza is a horse on the upgrade and there’s a race at Cheltenham next weekend which we might look at.
La Bague Au Roi has probably lost a bit of the speed she had two years ago. She ran fine in the Ladbrokes Trophy but they went hard early and she just struggled to be competitive. The owners and Warren [Greatrex] are hoping to find a small field mares’ chase to go for in a few weeks.
Adrimel outstayed them at Haydock on Wednesday and he probably wants a step up in trip now. Unless the ground was almost unraceable in the Tolworth, I think he’ll go up to two and a half miles. He’s won two out of two over hurdles now and he’s won a point-to-point so we know he stays well.
It was great to see crowds back on the racecourse at Haydock and a nice feeling to hear people clapping when coming back into the winners’ enclosure. It’s been a positive move and let’s hope bigger crowds can return in a few months as they’ve all been missed.
STRAW FAN JACK – 11.45am Aintree
I haven’t ridden him before but he won a novice hurdle round Hereford in October before finishing a decent second at Ascot. They have been two very good runs, although he’ll need a career best to win this. The ground will be quite testing so you’re going to be looking for horses who stay well.
HUNTERS CALL – 12.55pm Aintree
He’s in very good form and ran well in the Galway Hurdle in the summer. I won on him at Southwell before that and he ran a nice race at Cheltenham last month. He won the big handicap hurdle at Ascot three years ago so should enjoy the ground and I think he’s well up to winning off this mark. Olly’s [Murphy] had a few winners this week so his horses are in good form.
2.25pm Sandown – Tingle Creek
There was nothing wrong with Defi Du Seuil after Cheltenham but we wanted to make sure he was 110% so connections decided to swerve the Tingle Creek and wait for another opportunity. He’s in very good form at home and Cheltenham in March is his main target, so we’re focused on getting him cherry ripe for that.
It's going to be really interesting to watch Altior who is one of the best chasers we’ve ever seen. As these horses get older nothing is guaranteed but it’s going to be great to see him again.
NATIVE RIVER – 2.40pm Aintree
What an incredible horse he has been. To win a Hennessy, a Welsh National, a Gold Cup and being placed in two more, he really is a credit to himself and the Tizzards. I always look forward to riding him. He won both his races last season, including this one, and even though he’s 10 now he didn’t have a hard campaign. He had to miss the Gold Cup and I think he’d have gone close. They are very happy with him at home and he’s going back to a course he’s won at with conditions to suit.
Frodon was very impressive in the handicap at Cheltenham last time although the trip and ground might make it a real test for him. Santini was second in the Gold Cup in March so he’s got the best recent form. They are two very good horses but I wouldn’t swap Native River for anyone.
I’m off to Huntingdon for one ride on Sunday with Glory And Honour in the handicap hurdle. He won nicely last time and this is his first start in a handicap. He’s still unexposed and Tom Lacey’s horses are in good form.