Top jockey speaks from the horse’s mouth

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The Jumps sea­son steps up a gear this week­end which means it’s the re­turn of my weekly Rac­ing UK col­umn. That said, it doesn’t feel like Jumps weather, and every­one is des­per­ate for a bit of rain.

I have been tip­ping away and am very slightly be­hind where I was last year with 41 win­ners, but prob­a­bly haven’t had as many rides, due to the un­usu­ally warm weather.

I’ll be rid­ing my usual quota for Jonjo O’Neill and also for the likes of An­thony Honey­ball, who has been build­ing up a strong string for this sea­son, Emma Lavelle, who has a good chance for me on Sun­day, and Vene­tia Williams, who has sup­ported me since I came over the Bri­tain all those years ago.

Olly Mur­phy is an­other trainer who I am de­lighted to be as­so­ci­ated with and it’s amaz­ing to think he trained his first win­ner only last year. My fam­ily and his have ties back home in Cork. Olly’s fa­ther, Ai­den, is a well-known blood­stock agent, and is a cousin of trainer, John Mur­phy, who sup­ported me so much when I started out back in Ire­land.

Olly has had the per­fect ground­ing with Gor­don El­liott. Gor­don’s eye for spot­ting win­ning op­por­tu­ni­ties in the pro­gramme book has clearly rubbed off, and it is not sur­pris­ing Olly also has an eye for a horse given his back­ground.

Week­end rides

I ride Per­fect Man for Olly in the Pertemps Net­work Hand­i­cap Hur­dle at Chel­tenham on Satur­day. The horse is a new ad­di­tion to the yard and won on his first start for Olly at Mar­ket Rasen in Au­gust.

He was then third at New­ton Ab­bot, off a 10lb higher mark, and things just didn’t go right for him that day. He didn’t get the clear­est of rides and is bet­ter than that bare form in­di­cates. It’s a com­pet­i­tive field of 20, but I’d be dis­ap­pointed if he’s not in the money.

There’s also a big field of 17 for the Match­book Bet­ting Ex­change Hand­i­cap Chase, in which Jonjo O’Neill’s Above Board lines up. He’s run very well on his three runs this sea­son, in­clud­ing when third to Shan­tou Vil­lage last time out.

The strength of that form is borne out by the win­ner sub­se­quently go­ing on to fin­ish fifth in the Kerry Na­tional. He will need to step up and bring his ab­so­lute A-game to the race as it’s ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive, but if he does, then he won’t be far away.

My other ride on the card is prob­a­bly my best chance. Back On The Lash won his bumper in May and was then third on his hur­dles de­but at Worces­ter this month. I think the two miles around there was a bit sharp for him and he was al­ways in top gear. His lack of ex­pe­ri­ence just caught him out.

This longer trip of three miles in the Ran­dox Health Novices' Hur­dle will suit and if he comes on from his Worces­ter run I’d fancy him to run very well.

I have one ride at Ain­tree on Sun­day – Paisley Park in the Rac­ing UK Hand­i­cap Hur­dle. He’s been run­ning in some good qual­ity races, not least the Al­bert Bartlett at the Fes­ti­val, and it’s not sur­pris­ing to see him top-weight here. He feels like a very good horse to me.

Point to prove: Per­fect Man is back in ac­tion at Chel­tenham

Quota: Jonjo O’Neill

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