We headed down to Newbury with THE PLAYER QUEEN (2.45) last night and she will be our first-ever runner at the Berkshire track. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been there since I gave up riding so it has been nice to go back.
This has been the plan for Player Queen for a long time and I just hope we didn’t scupper it by taking in Cheltenham last month. On reflection, it was the wrong decision to run her at the festival after all the rain and we knew our fate within minutes when it became clear she wasn’t liking the ground at all. The good thing is that Craig Nichol looked after her that day and she’s come out of the race nicely. She’s a tough mare who takes her racing well, but we won’t know for sure how much it took out of her until this afternoon.
It’s a competitive handicap with a lot of big stables represented, but we’d like to think running off a mark of 116 gives her a chance because we reckon she’s better than that. I just hope I didn’t blow her chances by running her a fortnight ago at Cheltenham!
Up at Ayr we have one runner, SOME REIGN (1.15) on Scottish Grand National day. As we all know by now, he has his own ideas about things and he’s refused to race two out of the last three times he’s gone to the track. When he does deign to start he’s talented and wasn’t too much bother before the Morebattle at Kelso last month so hopefully he's in the same mood.
It’s back over fences this time in a race he contested last season. Twelve months ago I don’t think we gave him enough of a break between runs, having sent him to Carlisle just a fortnight before and that cost him. This time he’s had over a month so he’s fresh and well at home. He’s a talented horse so if he decides he’s going to race and is on a going day then we’d like to think he can be competitive.
Danny McMenamin takes over the ride because Craig is down with us at Newbury so he’ll have to have his wits about him at the start. Funnily enough, he’s ridden him before in his early days when he was in Northern Ireland with Brian Hamilton - they were both just kids then! So he’s got a bit of knowledge about how quirky he can be and hopefully that’s a help. Dobbs will be on hand to advise him about how to get to the start without mishap - he needs a lead down - and how to best encourage him to get going. But despite having all the bases covered, it’s still going to be nail-biting as always in the seconds before the tape goes up!