Author: Derek Thompson
AND THAT WAS certainly the case at Haydock on Saturday as Rachel Blackmore and Isabel Williams rode the two big winners. Blackmore, who earlier this year rode the winners of both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National, added the £200,000 featured chase to her ever increasing portfolio, winning this Grade One race on A Plus Tard by a staggering 22 lengths!
Considering they were taking on six top rivals, it was an incredible performance and believe me it could have been a bigger winning distance had Rachel wanted it to be. I’ve been lucky enough to see some great horses in my time including Shergar and Frankel on the Flat and Desert Orchid and Kauto Star over the jumps and this has to be right up with them.
Needless to say A Plus Tard, who was second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last year, is now favourite to win this season’s race. And then it was the turn of conditional rider Isabel Williams who rode an outstanding race on outsider Dan’s Le Vent to win the Stayers Hurdle. Considering she had ridden only 29 previous winners you could argue that inexperience might get the better of her as she jumped the last alongside Champion Jockey Harry Skelton and Grand National winning rider Ryan Mania but not a bit of it.
She galvanised her mount, who remember was the outsider, and rode a really strong finish to win an absolute thriller. For me it was the ride of the season so far and it was a very proud winning trainer, who just happens to be her dad Evan Williams, who greeted her to tremendous cheering in the winner’s enclosure.
Dan Skelton used to be better known as the eldest son of the Olympic Show Jumping gold medallist Nick Skelton but since turning to training racehorses less than ten years ago has turned into one of the best in the business and at Ascot on Friday sent out winner number 1,000! This former assistant to Paul Nicholls has worked wonders from his Warwickshire stable and it can only be a matter of time before he follows his younger brother Harry, who is the reigning Champion Jump Jockey, as the Champion Trainer!
Sad to report that Pivotal, one of the great stallions, passed away at the age of 28 at Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket. Pivotal, who was a Group One winning sprinter for Sir Mark Prescott, sired 32 Group One winners and although he is no longer with us, his name will live on forever. And finally… whilst commentating at Wolverhampton on Saturday night I bumped into Jason Watson who, 24 hours earlier, had ridden Lord Glitters to a fantastic victory in the Bahrain International Trophy.
Not many jockeys would fly from Bahrain for a couple of rides at a chilly Wolverhampton on a cold Saturday night but it shows you the determination of this young man who wants to ride winners wherever they are!