THE AIDAN COLEMAN COLUMN
Top jockey speaks from the horse’s mouth
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.
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