Friday, April 30, 2021

A brief review of the 2020/21 jumps season

Champion jockey: Harry Skelton

Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls

Winning owner: J P McManus

Champion conditional jockey: Danny McMenamin

In a season like no other, jump racing eventually came under starter's orders at Southwell on Wednesday July 1st; racing behind closed doors, the Paul Nicholls trained Nineohtwooneoh won the Sign Solutions Nottingham Novices' Handicap Chase ten lengths. 

Following two pilot events at Warwick and Doncaster, spectators returned briefly to the track in December but lockdown restrictions were quickly re-introduced as coronavirus cases increased. Owners made a limited return to the track on March 29th.  

On Saturday April 10th Rachael Blackmore rode the Henry De Bromhead trained Minella Times to victory in the Grand National, ensuring her name went into the history books as the first woman to win the race.

You'd be hard pressed to say you couldn't have seen it coming. 

Three weeks earlier Rachael had become the first female leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival, riding six winners - one more than Team GB managed to record.

Particularly impressive were Honeysuckle (Champion Hurdle) and Bob Olinger (Ballymore), both from De Bromhead's yard. The handler had the first two home in the Gold Cup as well but Rachael was aboard A Plus Tard, beaten one and a quarter lengths by stablemate Minella Indo with Jack Kennedy in the plate. 

Irish trained horses won 23 of the 28 races at this year's Festival, a fact that has generated plenty of discussion since - on both sides of the Irish Sea. Put The Kettle On and Flooring Porter claimed the feature events on Wednesday's and Thursday's cards respectively. 

On Boxing Day Bryony Frost became the first woman to ride the winner of the King George at Kempton. Frodon jumped out to his left on occasions but the pair proved unstoppable and made all to win.

Back in the autumn Nuts Well provided trainer Ann Hamilton and jockey Danny McMenamin with their biggest win to date when staying on to win the Old Roan at Aintree.

In the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham's Open meeting Coole Cody was set alight by loose horse Siruh Du Lac and quickly built up a handy lead. He nearly lost his hind legs at the fourth and while the jumping was pretty hairy at times, crucially he never lost momentum. Spiritofthegames looked all over the winner at the last but Evan Williams' charge wasn't for passing, coming home three and a quarter lengths clear.

Williams also claimed two notable scalps with canny front-running tactics. Silver Streak beat Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton while Navajo Pass beat Buveur D'Air in Haydock's Champion Hurdle Trial. 

The trainer also achieved a lifetime ambition when sending out Secret Reprieve to win the re-arranged Welsh Grand National in January - the horse was backed as though defeat was out of the question and so it proved. Unfortunately Secret Reprieve just missed the cut for the Aintree National. 

Emmet Mullins saddled The Shunter to win the Greatwood Hurdle 'comfortably'. 

At the beginning of March the horse returned to Britain to win Kelso's Morebattle Hurdle and then just 12 days later landed connections a bumper £100,000 bonus when winning the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase on the Cheltenham Festival Thursday card. 

Emmet Mullins' runners certainly proved worthy of a second look when sent over to Britain - his Cape Gentleman won the Dovecote in fine style. 

Bristol De Mai won another Betfair Chase at Haydock and a week later Cloth Cap ran away with the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase on good ground. Connections quickly indicated the Grand National was the target. 

The manner of his victory in the Premier Chase at Kelso in March ensured Jonjo O'Neill's charge was sent off 11/2 favourite for the Aintree spectacular. The gelding was bang in the mix but stumbled four from home and was quickly pulled up; jockey Tom Scudamore reported his mount had made a respiratory noise. 

Conor O'Farrell rode Vieux Lion Rouge to beat Kimberlite Candy an astonishing 24 lengths in the Becher Chase in December. In the National Vieux Lion Rouge blemished his record over the big fences with a fall at the 20th fence while Kimberlite Candy was pulled up.

Chatham Street Lad went into everyone's notebook when winning the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup 15 lengths. Michael Winters' charge subsequently finished fourth in the Marsh Novices' Chase at the Festival, eight lengths behind Chantry House after 4/9 hotpot Envoi Allen had departed at the fourth.

Sam's Adventure won the Tommy Whittle at Haydock and then unseated Ryan Mania in the Peter Marsh won by Royal Pagaille. Brian Ellison's charge then proceeded to add the Eider Chase to his haul before unseating Henry Brooke in the Scottish National.

Royal Pagaille went on to run in the Gold Cup as owner Mrs S Ricci was represented by Monkfish in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase. On the day neither horse jumped to the best of their ability; Monkfish still came home in front while Royal Pagaille finished sixth. 

Aidan Coleman and Paisley Park won a thrilling renewal of the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, collaring Thyme Hill in the shadow of the post, much to the exasperation of Richard Johnson. 

Thyme Hill missed Cheltenham with a slight setback but next time out in the Aintree Stayers' Hurdle Tom O'Brien took the ride after four time champion Richard Johnson had announced his retirement from the saddle the week before. Thyme Hill and Tom O'Brien wore down Roksana to collect the spoils with Paisley Park pulled up. 

Cheltenham's New Year's Day and Trials meetings were both abandoned, washed away due to waterlogging.

Before this year's Classic Chase Alan King had described Warwick as 'probably my favourite course' in his Racing Post Weekender column. 

If only I'd taken the hint - his Notachance (7/2jf) took up the running three from home and passed the post half a length ahead of the Venetia Williams trained grey Achille.

Two veterans chasers merit a mention - Sandy Thomson brought Seeyouatmidnight down from Berwickshire to win the Veterans' Final at Sandown while 40/1 shot Takingrisks stayed on to beat Aye Right in Doncaster's Sky Bet Chase. Handler Nicky Richards was visibly moved in the post-race interview, telling viewers the horse was his hack. 

A mighty season for Mighty Thunder - the Lucinda Russell trained gelding won the Edinburgh National, finished second to Time To Get Up in a strong renewal of the Midlands Grand National and then outstayed Dingo Dollar to claim the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. 

The same yard unleashed an exciting prospect in the shape of Ahoy Senor who won the Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree at odds of 66/1.

At the season's Sandown finale Champion Chase fourth Greaneteen surprised a few by coming home ahead of Altior and Sceau Royal in the Celebration Chase while a thrilling finish to the bet365 Gold Cup saw first past the post Enrilo demoted to third after causing interference with the fast-finishing Kitty's Light. 

Potterman was awarded the race in the stewards' room; Kitty's Light was promoted to second while El Presente faded into fourth in the shadow of the post. The first, second and fourth had finished second, third and first respectively in Wincanton's Badger Beers Silver Trophy in November.

Harry Skelton was duly crowned champion jockey following a protracted duel with Brian Hughes.

After a shaky start, a reasonable season for the blog, the highlight being this year's performance at the Cheltenham Festival; Flooring Porter is nominated blog horse of the year on the back of that all-the-way win in the Stayers' Hurdle. 

The ability of my wife to walk into our front room and, more often than not, pick the winner of the next without even the slightest nod in the direction of the formbook remains a source of some considerable irritation. 

Finally, lest we forget the dangers associated with this sport... 

On Sunday April 18th amateur rider Lorna Brooke died from the injuries she suffered when falling heavily from her mother's horse Orchestrated at Taunton on April 8th.

Chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority Julie Harrington paid tribute:

"Lorna was a much-loved member of our sport, in which she and her family are steeped. Lorna demonstrated many of the qualities that make British racing so special. She was a proud competitor and somebody who was driven by an abundance of love not only for the sport but for the horses she competed with. My thoughts, along with everybody else who loves racing, are with Lorna's family, friends and colleagues at this dreadful time."


Anonymous said...

...and Mrs Tips picks Mother Earth in the 1000 Guineas to win!!!

GeeDee said...



Mrs Tips (aka my wife) walks into our living room at about 3.15pm and looks at the runners in this year's 1000 Guineas. She originally picks Vadream but jumps ship five minutes before the off and sides with Mother Earth instead; the filly promptly romps home at odds of 10/1.

Pass me the aspirins.