As the end of the 2016-17 National Hunt season slips by and Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins are rather predictably crowned as Irish champions of the jumps once again I guess it is a good time to reflect on the season gone by.
At the beginning of the season I think I would have looked ahead with a general ambition to ride as many winners as possible and keep upping the quality of my rides where I can. In total I rode 44 winners in Ireland plus 2 in Britain including three Grade One winners and some big handicaps too. All in all, I recorded a personal best in numbers and quality and on the whole I’ve stayed pretty sound so I can’t complain too much.
If I had to pick a highlight I would say that winning the Irish Champion Hurdle with Petit Mouchoir for Gigginstown was the season’s highlight for me. Winning a Grade One at Punchestown with Cilaos Emery was obviously great too but at the time it felt like a relief as much as anything having drawn a blank at the Punchestown festival last year. Whilst I am naming the horses that carried me to my top successes I have to give mention to Augusta Kate who was very tough when winning at Fairyhouse three weeks ago. Augusta Kate’s owners are what you would call ‘A list’ and although they weren’t there that day it was special to ride a winner for ‘The Masters Syndicate’ (Andrea and Graham Wylie, Alan Shearer, Lee Westwood and Ant and Dec).
Last May, you would have put your money on Ruby and Willie to top the jockey and trainer leader boards but the conditional jockey title was a bit more open. I have been nothing but impressed with Rachael Blackmore this year and she is a deserved winner of the Champion Conditional title. Rachael has always been very talented but she has been particularly impressive throughout the last 12 months.
From the training ranks Ellmarie Holden has really cemented herself as a trainer to follow. Her runner in the Triumph Hurdle was characteristic of what Ellmarie is capable of. Ex Patriot went off at 28/1 but Ellmarie got him to peak on the day to finish fourth with Rachael Blackmore on board!
The 2016-17 season was a good one but that’s all history as they say and just as I have highlighted Rachael and Ellmarie as people to follow, I must also look ahead to a new season now. Irish National Hunt racing isn’t exactly in short supply during the summer months so it is time for some new goals. I will keep my head down and hope to be reporting some Galway success later in the summer!