In her weekend review, the Betway ambassador reflects on Gerri Colombe's impressive win at Down Royal and picks her ride of the weekend.
Despite Chepstow, Cheltenham’s October meeting and the Charlie Hall Chase already taking place, for me the jumps season really kicks off with Down Royal.
It’s an event that Gordon Elliott usually farms but that was an understatement this weekend with him claiming a six-timer on Friday and a five-timer on Saturday. He did in one weekend what some small trainers would love to do in a month or even a season.
It’s hard to knock what Gerri Colombe has done in his career. He’ll definitely be a strong contender for the Gold Cup, which is his big target for the season. He’s not flashy and sexy like other horses – including Galopin Des Champs, who won the race last year – but he does grind it out and, if you look back in the history books, that type seems to win the Gold Cup more than the flashy ones.
He’s a horse that everyone wants in their yard. I’d say he wouldn’t be lighting up the gallops in the morning – he’d be a lazy type, to me – but he’s clearly got a huge engine and his own way of doing things and that’s to grind it out. His class got him through on his first start of the season.
RIDE OF THE WEEKEND
Despite getting beaten, I thought the ride of the weekend was Rachael Blackmore on Envoi Allen, who was caught very late on by Gerri Colombe. She did everything right throughout the race and was only very narrowly beaten by a horse who just outstayed her.
I was surprised to see Gerri Colombe on the wing, especially with knowing Conflated would jump out to his left, as he did. Gerri Colombe certainly had a race on his hands and that was down to the position that Rachael had Envoi Allen, and you’ll see her tactical nous come to the fore with plenty of successes this season.
HORSE TO FOLLOW
Down Memory Lane looked very, very good to me in the maiden hurdle. He was no price, so someone knew he was pretty good, but he backed it up on the track. I loved watching Derek [O’Connor] travel with ease through the race. The way he was in full control and sat still from the back of the last made me think he must have felt he had plenty of horse left underneath him. He will likely step up in grade after that performance and he’ll have to be taken seriously.
I love seeing young jockeys come through and win on big days and what a start Carl Millar has had to his career. I spoke to him straight after his success on Magic Tricks and had a chat about where he came from and, to see where he is now – riding a winner for Gordon and J.P. McManus on televised race day – is really heartwarming.
His family wasn’t involved in racing, so he got in through his own love of horses. He used to do street racing where he grew up in Blanchardstown, which is near the airport in Dublin. He then got into a show jumping yard before getting a job down at Gordon’s and has clearly worked his socks off as he got a great opportunity, and one that he has grabbed with both hands.