Friday, April 29, 2016

A brief review of the 2015/16 jumps season

Champion jockey: Richard Johnson
Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls
Winning owner: Gigginstown House Stud
Champion conditional jockey: Craig Nichol

Following years spent in the shadow of A P McCoy, Richard Johnson deservedly collected his first champion jockeys' title with 235 winners; nearest rival Aidan Coleman chalked up 130. Perhaps the name of the winner was no surprise but the margin of victory was - in real terms Johnson had the championship in safe-keeping before Cheltenham's Open meeting.

In stark contrast the battle for the trainers' title between Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins went to the final day at Sandown; with Just A Par and Southfield Theatre finishing second and fourth respectively behind The Young Master in the bet365 Gold Cup, Nicholls claimed his tenth championship. Vicente's victory in the Scottish Grand National the previous week, the third leg of a four-timer for the Ditcheat handler, proved crucial and changed momentum. 

For many the season was defined by two horses - Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card.

Sprinter remained unbeaten and and amidst emotional scenes rolled back the years to reclaim the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival. Back in 2013 commentator Simon Holt had described Henderson's charge as 'a steeplechaser from the gods'; who are we to argue?

Cue Card won the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, Haydock's Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase at Kempton and looked to have every chance of claiming the £1 million bonus offered for winning the Gold Cup when taking a crashing fall three from home. In the post-race aftermath Colin Tizzard opined 'there's not a bother on him' and his charge proved as much three weeks later by winning the Betfair Bowl at Aintree. His subsequent fourth in the Punchestown Gold Cup was a race too far.  

Don Cossack was the principal beneficiary of Cue Card's Gold Cup mishap providing young jockey Bryan Copper with redemption following the ride he'd given the same horse in the Ryanair Chase twelve months earlier.

Owners Gigginstown House Stud went on to claim a famous treble with Rogue Angel giving Mouse Morris an emotional win in the Irish Grand National and then Rule The World winning for the first time over fences in the Grand National for the same handler. Jockey D J Mullins, victorious on his first ride in the National, returned to the same winners' enclosure an hour later aboard Ivan Grozny, recording a 578/1 double in the process.

Festival memories that still linger include Ruby Walsh's ride aboard Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle and Thistlecrack's annihilation of his field in the World Hurdle. Several bookmakers reported big losses after the meeting with Ladbrokes suffering its 'worst in living memory'; the blog's Festival selections were the most profitable on record. 

Earlier in the season Alan King bagged two big prizes with Annacotty holding the fast-finishing Buywise in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Smad Place running his rivals ragged in the Hennessy.

Hats off too to Lizzie Kelly who became the first female jockey to win a Grade One jumps race in Britain aboard Tea For Two in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton. Six weeks later she was aboard Agrapart, winning Newbury's Betfair Hurdle by an astonishing eleven lengths.

At a slightly less lofty level, I had some modest success, particularly in the autumn, with runners from the yards of Harry Whittington, Anthony Honeyball  and Stuart Edmonds.
I saw both Wolf Of Windlesham (Stuart Edmonds) and Arzal (Harry Whittington) win at Ludlow's second October meet; Wolf Of Windlesham beat a couple of highly-regarded sorts at Sandown last Saturday but Harry Whittington's yard will still be reeling following the sad news about Arzal earlier this week.

Surprisingly the post 'Ten years of PG's Tips' generated a number of queries, most coming from readers who were keen to ascertain what my mother-in-law was backing in this year's Grand National... I don't think I've got another ten years in me. 

The award of blog horse of this year has to go to Johnny Og trained by Martin Keighley.

I'd hatched a plot to back this one at a fancy price at a Newbury midweek meeting I was set to attend in January. Frost put paid to that cunning plan but just three days later I missed the wretched beast at Ascot where he trotted up at odds of 14/1. Six weeks on, up he popped at Newbury once again. I took 14/1, he went off at 8/1 and duly obliged, coming home one and threequarter lengths ahead of nearest rival Exmoor Mist. I'm still not quite certain what I would have done if he hadn't won...

And finally... At Cheltenham on Wednesday Sam Cavallaro, trained by Miss H Brookshaw and ridden by Mr R Jarrett, won the first race of the 2016/2017 season.  

1 comment:

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