Daryl Jacob: Bristol is ship-shape
Welcome to my new sportinglife column and I have to say there's an awful lot to look forward to in the coming months.
I'm in the fortunate position of being the retained jockey for Simon Munir and Isaac Souede and we have made a promising start to the new campaign – and when those commitments allow I'll be riding for Emma Lavelle.
She has over 70 horses down and plenty of smart ones among them. There are some promising types already beginning to emerge and there'll be plenty more as the year progresses and I can't wait to see how they all develop.
It was good to ride a couple of winners at the opening meeting at Cheltenham.
Sceau Royal was impressive in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle. He had a good juvenile campaign last year leading up to the spring Festivals but then wasn't quite at his best at Cheltenham or Aintree. Maybe he wasn't 100% but he was right back on song last week.
It was great to see; he travelled well and I was very impressed. I see he's prominent in the betting for the Greatwood back there at the Open Meeting. I'm not sure that's his target at the moment but if he did line up he'd have a good chance given he's such a strong traveller who can then quicken.
Wholestone won the Richard Allen, Waters & The Brittons Novices' Hurdle and is a nice horse who is improving with every run. He won nicely on his reappearance at Warwick and this was another step forward. Hopefully he'll keep progressing as he's a very nice prospect.
Laser Light won the Frank Sutton Supporting Velindre 'National Hunt' Maiden Hurdle at Chepstow in the week. He's another lovely prospect who is progressive. A lot further down the line I hope he's going to make a lovely three mile chaser.
El Terremoto was having his second run for us when winning at Stratford on Thursday. The step up in trip definitely helped him and it was a very encouraging performance.
I've plenty of good rides in the coming days starting with Top Notch who makes his chasing debut this afternoon in the Kalahari King Beginners' Chase at Uttoxeter.
He seems to have done very well over the summer and has been schooling well in the build up to this. His work has been quite good too and while he's obviously going to come on for the run and experience, I'm looking forward to riding him.
He did us proud last year in what was always going to be a difficult season for him, and the race today will show where we are going this term. It's a good race and there's no hiding place but my fellow was rated 157 over hurdles, was second in a Triumph Hurdle and fifth in last year's Champion so clearly he's exciting.
I've three cracking rides at Ascot on Saturday.
Ballybolley has done nothing wrong and won nicely at Wetherby the last day, beating quite a nice type in Shear Rock. The Ascot Underwriting Chase looks a warm heat, Emma Lavelle's Crimson Ark is a horse I like, but my fellow will relish the ground and goes there in good form.
I'm looking forward to riding Croco Bay in the Byrne Group Handicap Chase. He was running an absolute cracker when unseating two out at Cheltenham last week, I think we'd have finished second to Fox Norton. He just slightly guessed at the first fence in the straight, hit it quite hard, and gave me little chance of staying in the plate.
We're running him back quickly here but there's a lot of pace in the race which will suit my horse – as will the ground – and I'm looking for a good run.
I won on Junction Fourteen, my ride in the Sodexo Gold Cup, at Sandown last April. That was quite a competitive race and I thought he had a big future.
He then went to Galway where the track possibly didn't suit him and he disappointed slightly. He reappeared at Chepstow recently over two miles three and shaped there as though he needed to go back up in trip so we're trying three miles here.
It's an experiment with him and again will tell us a lot about what do the rest of the season. He's another who'll like the ground and while he disappointed a little at Ascot last year, that was down to the going rather than the track. I do feel the new trip is a big plus for him and I'm looking forward to it.
Last and by no means least is Bristol De Mai in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on Sunday. There are only three runners but it's a high quality field and looks a fascinating race.
It's a good starting point for my fellow and I hope they get rain up there as he likes soft ground. The fences are lovely at Carlisle and we can plan the rest of the year after this.
More Of That and Seeyouatmidnight are both very good horses but I'm not worried about how it will unfold tactically. Bristol De Mai can make the running or will drop in and take a lead. A few years ago he was prone to being a little keen but he's much more straightforward now and is working really nicely.