Tomorrow sees the first real Gold Cup appetiser, as Down Royal hosts the Grade One JN Wine Chase.  I love this time of year as many of the old favourites and top names begin to make long anticipated seasonal debuts.  It is an exciting time to be part of a good team or if you’re lucky, a few good teams.  As we have seen with Apple’s Jade today, this is the time of year to adapt plans and react to the new season and new competition.  Graded races are becoming a more regular feature now and I have three to prepare for this weekend.  With 9 rides over 2 days between 2 tracks, 5 over hurdles, 4 over fences, a Grade 1,2 & 3 and a listed race, this is how I see it panning out.

Saturday, Down Royal.

 1.25 – Optimised:  He was fourth in his only Point to Point and looks like a fine chasing type for the future.  Tomorrow will be about a good education.  My job in this situation is to learn what I can during the race and report to connections so that we can build on that for the future.  That is part of the job for any jockey but of course I hope he will win!

2.00 – Bog War:  I have a good partnership with him after three wins together.  He had a setback earlier in the season and is quite a burley horse so I suspect he will have come on for his two spins on the flat.

2.35 – Sadler’s Risk:  He might have a fitness edge on some of these having already won this season.  The Last Samuri and Silviniaco Conti should provide a good gallop which will play into our hands but the reality is that this represents his toughest test so far.

3.05 – Sub Lieutenant:  The pick of my weekend.  He was unbelievable and gave me a very special feel at Limerick last time out.  This is a definite step up in class but I wouldn’t swap him for anything else in the race.

Sunday, Cork.

 1.00 – Hickey’s Rock:  I don’t know too much about this one but Mouse tells me he is going well at home!

 1.30 – Blood Crazed Tiger:  I won on him over 3 miles last time out but he is a very free going type and is possibly better suited to 2 ½ miles.  He steps into listed class now and he will need to settle to repeat that form.

2.05 – Bilko:  He should have won at Punchestown last time.  He tried to run out going to the last and forfeited his chance, I would think he will be sharper physically for the run and I am hopeful.

2.40 – Alpha Des Obeaux: He gave me a good feel at Thurles last time even though he was only getting going at the line.  He drops back in trip here and I will be giving him a positive ride that’s for sure.  I wouldn’t mind a drop of rain for this one.

3.15 – Captain Von Trappe:  He hasn’t won for a year but has run in some good contests in that time.  I’m not sure that he is the pick of the Gigginstown horses but he is a solid jumper and I think a good test at Cork will suit him.  You will always need a bit of luck in a National!

Here’s hoping for a fruitful weekend!