Our columnist reflects on a hectic afternoon at Ayr and Newbury as Dan Skelton closes on a landmark and Mohaather lands the Greenham.
The Skelton boys are taking dead aim at the double century following another good afternoon at Ayr on Saturday. Dan is so prolific. Is there a better target trainer than him in the jumps game at the moment?
Just look at Azzuri who had clearly been laid out for Ayr's opening Scotty Brand Handicap Chase on is first run after a wind operation, and was backed accordingly. He absolutely bolted up. Half-an-hour later he struck with Molly The Dolly.
I had dinner with Dan on Friday night and know it would mean the world to him to get to the landmark over the next two weeks. At the time of writing he’s eight short but is a very driven individual who will be throwing everything at it. It would be an amazing achievement.
Ayr on Saturday was like being at a giant Scottish party – it’s a unique occasion. It was lovely to meet so many people who had nice things to say about Tiger Roll and the ITV coverage last week, but make no mistake this is their big day, their Grand National, and it’s a race that never disappoints.
It was great to see Nicky Richards follow in the footsteps of his late, great, father Gordon by winning Scotland’s biggest jumps prize.
Gordon sent out Playlord to land it in 1969 and struck again in 1990 with Four Trix. His son was very emotional in the interview with Alice afterwards.
It was a big triumph for Penrith, with owner Frank Bird also hailing from nearby ,and it will be some party in Cumbria tonight.
A horse to take out of the race would have to be third home Cloth Cap. He could make into a very nice staying chaser for Jonjo O’Neill and given he’s owned by Trevor Hemmings, it would be no surprise to see Aintree feature on his radar at some stage.
I’m really looking forward to watching the replay when I get home to work out exactly how Big River managed to finish fifth. He was hampered, shuffled back and looked like tailing off the last time I saw him so he must have thundered home.
Down at Newbury there was a strong Whitsbury theme to the two Classic trials.
The Watership Down Greenham Stakes was won in taking fashion by Mohaather, trained in the village by one of the game’s good guys in Marcus Tregoning, and sired by Showcasing, who is such a huge hit for the stud there.
The Fred Darling went to Dandhu and David Elsworth. He was at Whitsbury for the Desert Orchid and Persian Punch eras and he too is eyeing a Classic tilt with his winner. Both deserve to take their chance at Newmarket.
I’m now looking forward to getting home and cheering on Francesco Molinari in the Masters at Augusta before we embark on an intense week at the Craven Meeting, All-Weathers Final Day at Lingfield then a return to Scotland on Easter Saturday to cover Musselburgh’s meeting.
It’s a busy time of the year but one I love. The racing roadshow never fails to deliver.