Grand National - At The Races

Barry Geraghty's blog

    Our star blogger previews his rides at Sandown and Cork this weekend, headed by Apple’s Shakira who makes her handicap debut at the Esher track on Saturday.

APPLE’S THE PICK OF MY SANDOWN TRIO

The Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown is one that I always look forward to.

I have some great memories of winning the big race on Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre. While I don’t have a ride in the big one this year, I do have some lovely rides elsewhere on the card.

The pick of them looks to be on the Nicky Henderson-trained APPLE’S SHAKIRA in the Jumeirah Hotels And Resorts December Handicap Hurdle (2.25).

As many will remember she went to the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last season as the hot favourite, but she just ran too freely on the day.

She then went on to run well below herself at the Aintree Grand National meeting, so she finished last season on a real low note having looked impressive earlier in the campaign.

This first run in a handicap will be a change for her and while it is a very competitive race, I think she has a good chance if she can recapture her form from the first half of last season.

Nicky has left the hood on that she wore at Aintree, so hopefully that will be a help to her. The bigger field and stronger pace of this handicap might help her settle, but the other side of the coin is that the increased hustle and bustle of such a race might send her the other way.

We’ll have to wait and see how she reacts to it. She had settled quite well prior to those runs at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals, so maybe the big-race atmospheres just got to her.

She is older and hopefully wiser now, so all being well she will show that on Saturday.

My first ride on the day is on the Harry Fry-trained PHOENIX WAY in the Core Spreads “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (12.15).

He won a point-to-point at Killeagh by a long way earlier this year before joining Harry. He went to Bangor for his first run for him with a fair bit of expectation around him, but he was a bit disappointing on the day.

You’d always have to forgive a horse one disappointing run and hopefully he’ll bounce back with a better run in this. I haven’t sat on him before, but he looked a lovely horse when he won his point-to-point and I’m looking forward to him.

My other ride on the card is on the Jonjo O’Neill-trained BIG PENNY in the Elmbridge Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (12:50).

I don’t know much about her and it would be hard to fancy her looking at her recent form, but if she can bounce back to what she was doing this time last year she should have a chance.

I don’t ride have a ride in the Betfair Tingle Creek (3.00), but like everyone else I’m really looking forward to seeing it. This is probably the best Tingle Creek since the great days of Moscow Flyer.

Altior is obviously the one they all have to beat. I was chatting to Nicky last weekend and he was saying that when they schooled him over fences he had frightened him, in a good way!

They decided to school him again after that just to get some of the gas out of him and he was even more electric that time, so it sounds like he is a brilliant order.

He has a way of going through a race in slightly workmanlike style, but then shows unbelievable pace in the closing stages.

I managed to get beat on him in his first run in a bumper, but we’ll put that down to him being a big weak horse at the time! Barter’s Hill and Buveur D’Air were the two that finished in front of him that day, so it didn’t work out a bad race.

You’d have to respect Un De Sceaux, but he might want a longer trip at this stage of his career. Altior will be very hard to beat.

HOPING ANIBALE’S CLASS COMES THROUGH AT CORK

I’m back in Ireland on Sunday to ride at Cork and my main ride of the day is on the Tony Martin-trained ANIBALE FLY in the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase (1.45).

While he obviously stays well having been third in a Cheltenham Gold Cup and fourth in an Aintree Grand National, he has won at around the minimum trip both over hurdles and fences, so hopefully he’ll have the pace to be competitive at this shorter trip.

It’s his first run of what will hopefully be a long season for him, but I’m hoping his class will get him into the mix in this.

In the Kerry Group Stayers Novice Hurdle (1.10) I ride the Peter Fahey-trained THE BIG DOG.

On paper, this looks a tough ask for any horse making their hurdling debut, but Peter is a very good judge and I know he likes this horse a lot.

I rode him in a racecourse gallop after the last meeting at Roscommon and he gave me a good feel. He has run in a schooling hurdle at Tipperary, so that should stand to him here.

I’m hopeful he’ll run a good race.

I ride the Noel Meade-trained IMPATIENT PARTNER in the Charleville Cheese Maiden Hurdle (12.40).

He won a bumper at Cork last April and JP bought him after that. He beat an odds-on shot trained by Willie Mullins that went on to win a bumper and a maiden hurdle, so the form looks solid.

Noel has his horses in great form and I’m sure he’ll have this fella ready to run well.

My last ride of the weekend is on the Tony Martin-trained VOICES OF SPRING in the Low Low Handicap Hurdle (2.50).

I rode him at Killarney in July and he ran fine, but looking at that run and his two runs since, he’ll need to find improvement to get involved in the finish.

HAPPY RETIREMENT RICHARD OSGOOD

Before I finish up, I would like to write a few words about Richard Osgood who is retiring as the Clerk of the Course at Newbury at the end of the year.

He has done a brilliant job there over the years and he was always very good to me. Any time I wasn’t able to have a run around it myself, he would always give me a very good steer on the ground and where the best place to be was.

I probably owe more than a few winners to him! I’d like to thank him for all his help over the years and wish him a very long and happy retirement.