Daryl Jacob: Whole picture
Our columnist Daryl Jacob reflects on the recent win of Bristol De Mai at Haydock and looks ahead to some big weekend rides.
Bristol De Mai destroys his rivals at Haydock,
I was absolutely chuffed to bits with Bristol De Mai in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last Saturday. He jumped and travelled great, got into a lovely rhythm and demolished a very competitive field.
We'd changed a few things after his previous run at Newcastle and it was lovely to see him come out and produce a performance like that. The handicapper got pretty excited raising him 12lbs to 166.
If it came up on the slow side of good at Cheltenham I think he'd have a realistic each-way chance in a Gold Cup and is very much a horse to look forward to now we have him back on an upward curve.
L'Ami Serge looked like he was going to come and play a major part in the Champion Hurdle Trial but didn't quite get home again. Nicky Henderson reported afterwards the horse had bled and maybe that's the reason he hasn't been finishing his races as well as we'd have hoped.
It's back to the drawing board with him now but he's in great hands and I'm sure the team at Seven Barrows will get him right back to where we want him to be.
Ucello Conti bumped into a really progressive horse in the Thyestes Chase on Thursday. Champagne West bolted up but I was thrilled with my fellow too.
The ground, over three miles, was probably livelier than ideal for him but he jumped great and all roads now lead to Aintree and the Randox Health Grand National.
He won't run again beforehand, Gordon Elliott will get him there fresh and ready to go. He ran a great race last year when he didn't quite get home on very testing ground so if there's good to soft ground this year I think he has a great chance.
He ran well in the Becher at the course in November and I honestly can't wait to go back there with him in April.
I've three rides at Cheltenham on Saturday, starting with Wholestone in the Neptune Investment Management Classic Novices' Hurdle. He's been a great horse this season and has done nothing but improve with every run. Nigel Twiston-Davies and his team have done a great job with him.
He's been alternating between two-and-a-half and three miles and drops back to the former here in a very, very competitive race. It will help tells us where we need to be in terms of potential Festival targets in March.
Kotikova is a great spare ride to pick up in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle. Barry Geraghty is on the favourite Unowhatimeanharry but this mare was a prolific winner in France and I've schooled and ridden her a few times at home and she's always gone very well.
I thought she ran a nice race on her first start for Nicky at Leopardstown, shaping as if she needed it a bit before running on well. It was encouraging and she's a very exciting ride in a hot race.
I'm also on Maestro Royale for the same yard in the closing Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle. He's a lovely type of horse who I've ridden at home and he looks to be really coming together right now. This is a very open race but my lad is on the upgrade and goes there with a live chance.
On Sunday I head over to Leopardstown to partner Footpad in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle. He's up against Faugheen and Petit Mouchoir in a red-hot contest but I hope he can run a good race. His big targets later in the year are back in France with the likes of the French Champion Hurdle on his agenda again.