Ashforth’s Angles: Unlikely debuts for travelling jockeys

George Hall and Jose Valdivia after Ruler On Ice winns the Belmont Stakes 6.11.2011

Will Jose Valdivia be taking in the sights after riding at Bath?

  PICTURE: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos  

PUNCHESTOWN is the place to be or, failing that, a seat in front of a television with Punchestown on it.

Can Yorkhill, victorious at Cheltenham and Aintree, do it again in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (4.20) for the returning from injury Ruby Walsh? Probably.

Can Rule The World triumph in the Growise Champion Novice Chase (6.40) only 17 days after triumphing in the Crabbie’s Grand National? Probably not.

Is Special Tiara a tempting each-way bet in the Vautour-dominated Boylesports Champion Chase (5.30)? Yes.

Mysteries at Nottingham

The meeting doesn’t start until mid-afternoon to give people a chance to watch a bit of Bath, Brighton and Nottingham beforehand. By the time Yorkhill sets off, Chris Hayes will have made an unlikely first appearance at Nottingham and Jose Valdivia Jr an even less likely debut at Bath. Harry Bosch, on the other hand, will be making his sixth appearance there.

It’s slightly mysterious. Why is Hayes, one of Ireland’s top Flat jockeys, having ridden at Naas the previous evening, making the journey to Nottingham to ride Uncle Dermot for Brendan Powell in a 0-75 handicap (2.35)?

Did Hayes bet Powell that he couldn’t get one of those extra large oranges in his mouth and that, if he did, he’d come over and ride for him? And Powell did get that orange in his mouth.

Or has Hayes always wanted to go on one of those tours of the caves and tunnels under Nottingham Castle and thought he might as well ride while he was over?

Sightseeing in Bath

And why is Wesley Ward running New Trier, last of eight finishers on her debut at Kempton earlier this month, at Bath (2.45)? Will Valdivia Jr be going on afterwards to the Thermae Bath Spa to “bathe in Britain’s only naturally warm, mineral-rich waters, just as the Celts and Romans did over 2,000 years ago”? Will Ward and Valdivia Jr be offering advice on the EU referendum, as Obama did earlier this week? Who knows?

Then there’s Harry Bosch, a horse running in the 2.10. When he’s not being a horse he’s the detective hero of many of Michael Connelly’s crime novels. One of the best of the Bosch stories is The Last Coyote, in which Bosch says, memorably, “Everybody counts or nobody counts. That’s it. It means I bust my ass to make a case whether it’s a prostitute or the mayor’s wife. That’s my rule.” Yes, that’s Harry Bosch.

When he’s a detective, he pretty much always wins but when he’s a horse, not so much, although he has won twice at Bath.

As well as Valdivia Jr, Bath has Fran Berry on display. Berry is now Ralph Beckett’s stable jockey and anyone who took the 6-4 Paddy Power were offering against Berry riding 60 or more winners in Britain this year is entitled to feel confident.

Berry, 35, has won 41 Group races on the Flat, including five in Japan. He won the Coral Cup at Cheltenham in 1999 and the Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown in 2000. He’s a top class rider. Today Berry has five rides for five different trainers, including Beckett. Worth watching.


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