The last few days have certainly been a bit different for me! I was overwhelmed by all the messages and phone calls on the drive back from Newton Abbot on Saturday evening. It's quite a long drive but it went very quickly. Everyone has been very kind with what they’ve said.
I feel very happy with my decision and I don’t have any regrets at all – it was the right time for me. The first three or four days was a bit of a whirlwind with all the interviews and speaking to lots of different people. I’ve now had time to take in all the lovely messages and comments from people.
It was hard to speak with Luke [Harvey] at Newton Abbot, I found it difficult to get the words out. And then watching some of the videos and reading what people have written, it gets you a bit choked up. I just feel very privileged and honoured to have been in this position, to work with so many lovely people and to have so many special friends.
The kids are on their Easter holidays at the moment and they’re making the most of it. We’ve got plenty going on at home with the farm and all the horses, so I certainly haven’t been struggling to find things to do. I must admit it’s been nice not to be on a deadline to get into the car to get to a racecourse, I’ve not been under the same time pressure. On the other side, it’s obviously hard watching horses like Native River and it will be with Thyme Hill on Saturday.
I got pretty close with What’s Up Boys in 2002 but sadly the National isn’t on my CV. I have some great memories, though, and I’m looking forward to watching this year’s race.
It’s going to be a different feeling with no crowds there. Cheltenham and Aintree have that unbelievable, unique atmosphere that the people bring which everyone will miss.
There’s always a huge buzz down at the start. Not only have you got 40 horses, there’s all the hype and noise. Hopefully the starter will have an easier job this year because the horses won’t be so excited.
Here’s my top four…
1. Cloth Cap
It’s very hard to pick holes in him and if I was to ride any horse in the race, he’d be the one I’d want to be on. His form this season has been fantastic, as has Jonjo’s [O’Neill], he’s a very good jumper, ground conditions should be fine and he’s well in at the weights. For me he ticks every box and even though he hasn’t been over these fences, everything he’s done suggests he’s the perfect type for the race.
2. Magic Of Light
She’s been there and done it when an excellent second to Tiger Roll two years ago and you’d imagine this will have been the plan since she crossed the line that day. She is just a very good mare, has a nice weight and I can see her running a big race at a decent each-way price.
3. Any Second Now
I know this race will have been the plan for most of the horses, but it definitely will have been for Any Second Now. Ted Walsh has won it before and he’s gone a similar route to what he’s done with his National horses in the past. He is a very good horse, as he showed when winning the Kim Muir a couple of years ago, and he looks to have a very strong each-way chance.
4. Bristol De Mai
He’s an absolute star who has been incredible for his connections. It’s always hard under top weight but he’s a very good jumper and is undoubtedly the class horse in the race. They missed Cheltenham to come here and the ground will probably be good to soft which should enable him to carry the weight. It would be a huge effort to win off his mark but I could definitely see him running into a place.
We were all gutted he missed Cheltenham but you have to take the positives out of a bad situation. He comes here for the Liverpool Hurdle (3.35pm) a fresh horse and he only missed a short amount of work. It was just missing work at the wrong time.
We know he goes well fresh and Paisley Park ran at Cheltenham so you’d have to think it’s an advantage he hasn’t been there. I still think it’s between him and Paisley Park and I’d love him to win for the owners, Philip [Hobbs] and Tom [O’Brien]. It would be the perfect start to his new job.
It will be a strange few days watching at home but I really hope Philip’s horses run well. The only negative for me is I won’t be able to ride great horses like him who always mean so much.