Ed Chamberlin enjoyed ITV’s coverage of Warwick on Saturday where amateur jockeys stole the show in a couple of the live races.
I’ll let you into a little secret. Today’s opening segment of our coverage on ITV was filmed on Friday lunchtime, as I stood in a lovely couple’s back garden with Warwick Castle as the backdrop.
Founded in 1068 when William the Conqueror made it from a wooden fort, it’s one of the many attractions in a wonderful town where the racecourse is a stone’s throw from the high street.
If you couldn’t guess, then yes, I’ve been spending too much time with our resident historian, Richard Hoiles.
Visiting such places is one of the many reasons I love the smaller tracks and you couldn’t help but enjoy today’s excellent card at Warwick, run on unseasonably good ground, there having been no rain since before Christmas.
Still, the track was in pristine condition this afternoon and it’s no wonder Jane Hedley and her team won the RCA ground staff of the year award as they really do a magnificent job here.
The lack of rain is becoming a worry, though. At this rate we might not even see the Altior v Un De Sceaux rematch in next week’s Clarence House Chase so trainer, owners and ITV Racing presenters alike are doing a rain dance.
That concern is for the build-up to next week, but for now let’s concentrate on a day where amateur jockeys played a starring role.
First up was Derek O’Connor, who won on what might just be a Cheltenham Festival winner-in-waiting in Ok Corral, who took the Hampton Novices’ Chase in fine style.
I thought he would be far too big and clumsy for the tight turns of Warwick, but he glided through the race like a gazelle and won as he liked to set up a tilt at the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Sky Bet went 3/1 Non Runner No Bet immediately after the race and you can see why. He could be a 5/4 shot on the day. I just hope they stick to four miles having backed Santini for the RSA.
After O’Connor came Sam Waley-Cohen, another amateur, who won the Classic Chase aboard Impulsive Star, a horse that had chased home Ok Corral at Plumpton on his last start.
He might well chase him again the four-miler at Cheltenham, but for now Waley-Cohen deserves all the plaudits for giving this horse an excellent ride having managed to get down to 9st 12lb - meaning he didn’t put up any overweight.
It was lovely to see Sam celebrating on the podium with his kids afterwards on a day where Warwick was full of families and young children enjoying the action.
We’ve covered some important subjects on ITV Racing recently, namely mental health and the stable staffing crisis, and our next big push is to get more youngsters involved in the game so that they can experience what a wonderful sport horse racing is.
On that note I was lucky enough to meet young Samantha Martin, a budding horse racing journalist who I hope will be writing on the pages of Sporting Life in years to come. She’s an up-and-coming writer and I hope she’ll help inspire the next generation to get involved in our sport.
Back to the action on the track and the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle, Dan Skelton landing the Grade Two prize for the second time in his career after winning it with Three Musketeers four years ago.
Beakstown looks a lovely prospect but, punters, hold fire on your Cheltenham bets. Although connections might succumb to the lure of the Festival, you just sense this fellow is a long-term project.
My favourite story in that race was seeing Helen Brisland back on the racecourse.
Helen had what she described as a ‘pissy little fall’ back in May which resulted in her rupturing her spinal cord and consequently spending six months in the spinal injuries unit in north Wales.
She has worked for Henry Daly since 1999 and looked after Stoney Mountain, a horse that ran a cracking race here, staying on for second behind Beakstown.
You’d have needed an act of parliament to keep her away from watching her beloved horse run at Warwick today and to see her smiling and greeting Stoney Mountain was the highlight of my day.
With The Opening Show bringing the stable staff crisis to the fore, Helen’s love for Stoney Mountain shows just how strong the bond can be between human and horse. Helen, you’re an amazing lady. Everyone at ITV and Sporting Life wishes you well.
Two more amateurs starred on ITV before we came off air.
Harry Teal, son of Roger, Tip To Win’s trainer, won the Pertemps qualifier at Warwick on Keeper Hill, a victory that should have made our special guest Adrian Heskin green with envy, given that he would’ve been riding the horse but for his broken leg.
Retained by the McNeill family, Adrian is a classy guy and cheered Keeper Hill all the way to the line. I hope he enjoyed his ITV debut and I’m sure the hair product and shampoo companies will have him on their radars after he unleashed his magnificent blonde locks to our viewers, a treat they don’t usually see under his riding helmet. Mick Fitzgerald and I were green with envy.
Finally, over at Kempton, it was another amateur hitting the headlines as Jonjo O’Neill junior won the biggest prize of his career when landing the Lanzarote Hurdle on Big Time Dancer.
A young lad with a famous name, he’s making a huge impression as a conditional and is sure to be in demand at the Cheltenham Festival. Just like the amateur jockeys who starred on ITV at Warwick and Kempton this afternoon.
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