Friday, April 29, 2022

A brief review of the 2021/22 jumps season

Champion jockey: Brian Hughes

Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls

Winning owner: J P McManus

Champion conditional jockey: Kevin Brogan

With 204 winners, 99 ahead of nearest challenger Sam Twiston-Davies, champion jockey Brian Hughes joined a select band of riders who have ridden more than 200 jump winners in a season - Peter Scudamore, Sir Anthony McCoy and Richard Johnson. 

In the week leading up to the Grand National Mr Sam Waley-Cohen announced his retirement from the saddle, indicating Noble Yeats in the National would be his last ride. He then went out and rode the 50/1 chance to victory, coming home two and a quarter lengths ahead of Any Second Now. Trainer Emmet Mullins won the Grand National with his first runner in the race. 

Robbie Power wanted to retire by winning the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard 2021 winner Minella Indo. Unfortunately for Robbie Rachael Blackmore had unfinished business from last year; A Plus Tard came home 15 lengths ahead of his stablemate. Robbie's final ride was aboard Teahupoo in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.    

And after a career spanning 36 years, Dave Roberts, jockey agent to the stars, was another to announce his retirement.

Rachael Blackmore won a second Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle, Flooring Porter a second Stayers' Hurdle.  

L'Homme Presse looked impressive in the Brown Advisory but Ahoy Senor turned the tables at Aintree. 

This year's Champion Chase was billed a rematch between between Shiskin and Energumene. 

Nico De Boinville thought the former was 'cooked' in the Clarence House at Ascot but somehow his mount managed to dig deep and beat the latter a length in a race that, for once, lived up to all the pre-race hyperbole.

Heavy rain preceded the re-match. Shishkin never went a yard in the soft ground and was pulled up before the ninth; Energumene won at odds of 5/2. 

Constitution Hill's annihilation of his opponents in the Supreme will live long in the memory; Nicky Henderson's charge is currently quoted 2/1 favourite for the 2023 Champion Hurdle.

Prices of a different sort perturbed punters at this year's Festival: Guinness £7.00 a pint; pasty £7.50;  gin and tonic £14.00; Moet & Chandon (20cl) £29.00; bottle of sauvignon blanc £80.00. 

Many took to social media to voice their displeasure, vowing not to return next year. 

You can't help but wonder whether those in charge are in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg; plans for a five-day Festival appear to be at an advanced stage.   

During an unseasonably dry autumn Midnight Shadow won the Paddy Power Gold Cup, West Cork the Greatwood, Nube Negra the Shloer, A Plus Tard the Betfair Chase and Cloudy Glen the Ladbrokes Trophy.

The Robbie Dunne / Bryony Frost case allowed punters a peek into the inner sanctum of the weighing room and it didn't prove particularly edifying. Dunne was suspended for 18 months for bullying Frost; on appeal his ban was reduced to 10 months.

Snow Leopardess beat Hill Sixteen a nose in the Becher and was well backed for the National but the grey mare failed to handle the Aintree preliminaries. Aidan Coleman looked after her, pulling up after one circuit; he received plenty of earache for his troubles.

Champ won the Long Walk in December and was sent off 8/15 favourite for the Cleeve; he was comprehensively beaten by Paisley Park who lost 20 lengths at the start yet still came home over three lengths to the good. 

Frodon (Bryony Frost) and Minella Indo (Rachael Blackmore) took each other on from the start in the King George at Kempton allowing Danny Mullins and Tornado Flyer to come from behind and pick up the pieces.

Iwilldoit did it in fine style and won an attritional Welsh National.  

Conceding 16 pounds Royal Pagaille pipped Sam Brown half a length in the Peter Marsh at Haydock while Glory And Fortune became the first horse older than six to win the Betfair Hurdle since Geos in 2004. 

Saturday February 26th 2022 will be a day Christian Williams won't forget in a hurry. Win My Wings beat Eclair Surf in the Eider at Newcastle and half an hour later Cap Du Nord beat stablemate Kitty's Light in the Coral Trophy at Kempton. 

Five weeks later Williams saddled Win My Wings and Kitty's Light to finish first and second in the Scottish Grand National. 

Fellow Welsh trainer Evan Williams certainly has a character on his hands with Coole Cody. The 2020 Paddy Power Gold Cup winner was still in the lead when coming to grief two out in this year's renewal. Four weeks later  he won Racing Post Gold Cup over the course and distance - and the Craft Irish Whiskey Co Plate at the Festival at odds of 22/1. 

On the final day at Sandown Greaneteen won the Celebration Chase and Irish raider Hewick the bet365 Chase with something to spare.

For a second year Flooring Porter is nominated blog horse of the year for that victory in the Stayers' Hurdle.

I'm getting on a bit now, I know, but the sport just doesn't seem quite the same. In a recent post on his ATR blog Kevin Blake told readers National Hunt racing needs to wake up before it's too late

Some food for thought there.

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