Jumps Diversion

Jumps Diversion

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Believe It has been a great servant for us and he gets his chance to run in front of ITV viewers in the £60,000 Totequadpot London Mile (3.15) at Kempton.

The amazing thing about Believe It, who has already posted four 2017 Kempton wins under our apprentice Stephen Cummins, is he was rated in the 60s for almost a year and had plenty of runs in that time as well. Goodwood Crusader was very similar. Like him, Believe It suddenly took off.

With both horses, I couldn't really tell you why they progressed by about two stone.

From seemingly nowhere they began to get better from one race to the next without us doing anything different with them or seeing anything different at home. They could easily have been sold to join other yards just before their improvement spurts began. Had that happened, people would have said they came on a ton for leaving Hughesie's yard.

We really do love Believe It. One strange thing about him is he is still a colt. I don't really know why - I think it's just that we've never got round to cutting him! The other strange thing is he walks around the paddock looking like he is in foal. He is that big. That's just him, though. Even when fully fit he goes around with a beer belly.

He also goes better right-handed than left-handed, at least that's my opinion. He has an issue with his wind and I think when he is turning to the right he breathes that bit easier.

It annoys me when people call horses unpleasant names. I don't mind people describing them as lazy because sometimes that's exactly what they are. Moreover, we can all be lazy.

However, when a horse hangs he will sometimes be referred to by punters as a pig. That's so unfair.

Horses don't hang because they are pigs. They put their head up in the air or tilt their head to one side, sometimes both, because, usually, they have a larynx that isn't working properly and they are looking for air. An alternative explanation for hanging is the horse is in pain.

Horses are bred to run. You would never see them hanging when galloping around a field. The hanging only occurs when they are placed under pressure.

Fortunately, Believe It's problem is made easier when he goes right-handed. Even so, he will need to produce a big personal best to win this time as it's a hot handicap, one we were aiming Mr Minerals at, but unfortunately he has had a setback and won't be able to run again this year.

Believe It loves Kempton and will hopefully run his usual honest race, especially as I offered a free six-month lease of him as an auction prize for the wonderful children's charity Starlight.

My neighbour Susie Watson had the winning bid and has split the horse with her friend Emily Scott. Emily also rides him most days, while Susie has become my lucky charm as every time she goes racing we seem to win.

Let's hope she makes it to Kempton!

Zhukova value to spring Champion shock

There is some wonderful racing this weekend, headed by the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes, in which I think, at the prices, it is worth siding against hot favourite Churchill.

For me, the jury is out on this season's three-year-old colts. While the fillies of that age look to be a special bunch, the colts have been much less convincing, with Churchill, Barney Roy and Cliffs Of Moher all beaten fair and square by Ulysses in the Juddmonte International.

This time there is no Ulysses up against the two Ballydoyle performers. Eminent adds further strength to the three-year-olds' challenge, but with Poet's Word, Decorated Knight and Success Days in the field, the older horses will be tough to beat. It would not surprise me if the toughest of all to beat is Zhukova.

At her best, as when winning on this day last year and then when romping to victory in an American Grade 1 by six lengths in May, she is a very smart mare.

There would have been easier assignments for her than the Irish Champion - she was also entered in Sunday's Blandford Stakes - so the fact Dermot Weld has chosen to run her here, when he already has a previous winner in The Grey Gatsby lining up, underlines how highly he rates her.

Dermot has had a bit of a torrid time this year, as can happen to anyone, but he remains one of the very best trainers in the world. It is perfectly possible we will be reminded of that at Leopardstown.

The card's other Group 1, the Coolmore Matron Stakes, is more straightforward.

Plenty of top-class performers have been declared, many of them by Aidan O'Brien, but in my opinion Winter is quite simply a brilliant filly. It would not worry me that she is dropping back in trip as she has won two Guineas and a Coronation Stakes at a mile. She ought to carry on her winning sequence here.

Earlier in the day we have the 32Red Sprint Cup, which, not for the first time is going to be staged on testing ground. It feels like it's the same story every year.

Haydock has a very black soil but although it gets quite deep they tend to go through soft ground there very well. Even so, the conditions have to be a concern for the favourite Harry Angel.

The July Cup winner is all about speed. This race, however, will also be a proper test of the sprinters' stamina.

Harry Angel showed his pace in super fashion when rolling along from the front in the Group 2 he won at Haydock in May. On that occasion, though, the ground was firm, which appeared to suit him perfectly - so much so he set a new course record. He has also enjoyed racing prominently, but there certainly won't be an easy lead to be had in a race like this on soft ground.

In contrast, The Tin Man has shown himself to be extremely effective in the sort of ground the Sprint Cup field is going to face. If I was going to back a horse in the race it would be him.

Angel gives us a jumps diversion

We have a rare runner over hurdles at Fontwell on Sunday when Angel Of Rome makes her jumping debut in a juveniles' event that also features a Ralph Beckett-trained runner named, rather ominously for us, Ulysses.

I'm a Flat trainer who has jumping in his roots and therefore enjoys having a jumper in the yard now and again. There's nothing more to it than that.

This filly has a very good pedigree and we believe she is better than she has so far shown on the Flat. The hope is a switch to hurdling could bring about some improvement.

Her stable companion Bluff Cragg wasn't running particularly well but then I schooled him and he proceeded to win on the all-weather at Kempton. The jumping session seemed to light a spark within him.

There is a bit of a difference in how you train a stayer compared to a sprinter and there is also a bit of a difference in how you train a jumper compared to a Flat horse, although the main thing with any horse is that they go to the races fit.

A horse either can jump or can't jump - and this girl started to jump about a month ago after her most recent Flat race at Ffos Las. Since then she would have had plenty of schooling sessions.

The key thing I learned from Dad is from the first moment they start jumping they have to respect whatever it is they may be jumping. For that reason, we begin by putting them over telegraph poles in an enclosed space from which the horse cannot run out. Crucially, the poles are hard and solid - if they touch the pole once they will seldom touch it a second time.

In the early stages you also try not to actually ask the horse to jump. You want the horse to figure out what needs to be done on his or her own.

This filly has passed those tests. Anything can happen on raceday but what we've seen at home has been promising.

Saluting the Legends

I'm not riding in this year's Leger Legends handicap at Doncaster on Wednesday as I had already committed to taking part in a Punchestown charity race being staged next month in memory of my good friend John Shortt.

I'll be writing about the Punchestown day nearer the time, but for now I send best wishes to everyone taking part at Doncaster. The jockeys are raising money for Jack Berry House and the Northern Racing College, so they are coming out of retirement for two great causes.