The magic lingers on
Alex Hammond shares her highlights of Cheltenham and looks ahead to the weekend's races.
Last Updated: 26/03/13 6:33pm
Cheltenham provided us with its usual mix of spectacular, wonderful, dramatic and emotional scenes over the best four days the racing industry stages.
Firstly, thoughts are with JT McNamara who suffered a terrible fall on the Thursday and we can only hope for the best for one of Ireland's leading amateur riders as we await an update on his condition.
I was lucky enough to be riding there on the Thursday and the atmosphere was subdued after JT's fall. However, the racecourse medical staff and organisers did a magnificent job in taking care of the jockey and also in staging the final two races.
After tremendous fundraising efforts from all 12 riders in the St Patrick's Derby we were all keen to give our supporters something to shout for as so many had travelled long distances to support their rider.
There was a great camaraderie between us all and it gave us an insight into the daily life of a jockey; it's only now that the enormity of it is sinking in, both from the riding point of view and of the generosity of everyone in sponsoring us for Cancer Research UK.
Huge thanks on a personal front to Richard Fahey for allowing me to ride for him and Mica Mika gave me a magnificent ride. It's not too late to sponsor me as I'll leave my fundraising page open for a while yet. Check out www.justgiving.com/SkySportsAlexH . A figure in the region of £124,000 has been raised by all twelve riders.
There were many notable performances on the track, Our Connor the obvious one in the Triumph, but the tenacious performance from Bobs Worth in the Gold Cup impressed me, despite the fact he beat my long time ante-post selection Sir des Champs!
His trainer Nicky Henderson had his usual superb week adding to that Gold Cup win with Simonsig in the Arkle and racing's latest superstar Sprinter Sacre annihilating the opposition in the Champion Chase.
This is such a great sport that keeps giving to its fans and it seems as one top class racehorse retires another steps up to the plate to fills his shoes (or should that be plates?!)
Henderson is currently around £400,000 ahead of Paul Nicholls in the trainer's championship title race and looks set to win it back to cap a magnificent season.
It's always disappointing that we have to wait another 12 months to enjoy it all again but much to dream of in the months in between.
To this weekend's action now and it seems astonishing that the start to the 2013 flat season could be in jeopardy due to snow.
This time last year the Doncaster clerk of the course was watering to maintain decent ground for the Lincoln meeting, but with the never ending winter that racing is battling though the traditional curtain raiser could be lost.
Let's hope that's not the case as there is some competitive fare to look forward to. With the Dubai World Cup taking place next week many of the leading jockeys are jetting in to take rides here; Doncaster will inspect at 8am on raceday morning, so we will have to wait until then.
If the Lincoln does goes ahead we have to try and find the winner of this tricky one mile handicap. There has been plenty of support for Captain Bertie over the past few days and trainer Charlie Hills will be hoping he can carry on the record his father Barry had at the track. Hills says this horse has been working fantastically well and goes well fresh so plenty of positives.
Lahaag is a leading fancy for champion trainer John Gosden who does well in these competitive handicaps. William Buick takes the ride on him whilst Paul Hanagan is flying back from Dubai and has chosen to ride owner Hamdan al Maktoum's Eshtibaak from that pair.
Strictly Silver will be ridden by Robert Tart, who is an apprentice jockey making a name for himself on the all-weather this winter, Alan Bailey trains. The horse won the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton last time out for the rider.
Jamie Spencer will be hoping for a good run from Chapter Seven. He is retained by powerful owners Pearl Bloodstock this season and this would be a perfect start for their association. Ground conditions (snow permitting) will be ideal.
Gladys Gal represents another new partnership - trainer Roger Varian and new stable jockey Andrea Atzeni (who K Fallon has tipped as a future Champion jockey - he's 33/1 to win the title this year with Sky Bet).
The horse hasn't run since July 2011 and has just had the three starts. She looked useful when winning a seven furlong handicap on her final start at this track but it looks a tough ask despite the talents of her trainer.
Movers and shakers
Another mover in the week was Shamaal Nibras for Richard Hannon. Champion jockey Richard Hughes rides and this horse is another who will suit this soft ground. Incidentally Hughes is 5/6 favourite to retain his title in 2013.
William Haggas doesn't run Nine Realms due to the ground, but his booking of Ryan Moore for Arsaadi looks a positive (Moore is 3/1 to be champion jockey again).
Richard Fahey has a powerful string this season and he is well represented with three runners including last year's winner Brae Hill who runs off the same mark as when successful twelve months ago. He has gone well fresh in the past and looks the best chance for the Musley Bank handler, although Fahey said he would prefer to be drawn in the middle with the horse who comes out of stall three.
Lahaag is a horse I'd rather be with than against. Although he is drawn relatively low, I hope he goes well for the Gosden camp. He has only had the four career starts, winning two of them and finishing second twice - on debut and on his last start when just touched off at York in October.
That last run was an interesting one as he was beaten by the then Richard Fahey trained Chapter Seven. That horse was then bought for 95,000 guineas at the Horses in Training Sales by Pearl Bloodstock and is now with Stuart Williams for whom he ran once after that on the all weather without covering himself with glory. He could continue to progress back on turf given a truly run race.
It's interesting Hanagan has chosen Eshtibaak, apparently there isn't much between the Hamdan pair. Lahaag looks the sort of horse, though, who should do well as a four-year-old as he has plenty of size and scope and I'm going with him for the season curtain raiser.
He will be ridden by Gosden's stable jockey William Buick who looks nailed on to be champion jockey at some point. He may find it tough at the moment against the likes of Richard Hughes who has plenty of firepower from the Hannon stable and managed to win the title last year despite missing the first few weeks due to a ban imposed by the stewards in India.
Sky Bet have a market on the flat season jockey handicap and in that I like Buick with +40 winners.
Lahaag in the Lincoln Handicap @ 7/1 with Sky Bet
Richard Hughes to be champion jockey at 5/6 with Sky Bet
William Buick in flat jockey handicap (+40 winners) @ 11/1 with Sky Bet