And there is every sign that the meeting this year is going to be a cracker.
Jockey Dougie Costello should be there. He’s a man who has grown in popularity with trainers, owners and punters alike.
It was his birthday this month and he has delivered many happy returns for members of my selections service in recent years. Just one of the many largely unsung men of the saddle who go about their business in an uncomplicated manner, always giving a horse every opportunity of winning. And, no, you shouldn’t take that for granted.
We saw at Cheltenham how precarious the job can be. The terrible injuries suffered by his fellow Irishman John Thomas McNamara provided a timely reminder to us all that these men and women of racing put themselves in danger every time they get a leg up in the saddle.
Two years ago, just after his birthday and towards the culmination of his best ever season in the saddle, he suffered a broken leg. That ruled him out of the Cheltenham festival and Grand National meetings in 2011. So he knows only too well about the ups and downs of life as a jockey.
But Dougie wouldn’t swap his job for another.
He says: “I’m doing something I really enjoy, something that has been part of my life since I was a young lad riding ponies. I thrive on the pressure of going out in the good races on Saturday.
“The downside to the job is the mileage. I probably clock up 1000 miles a week. I don’t mind getting up at 4am to ride out somewhere at 6am, but there’s nothing enjoyable about being stuck in traffic.
“If you are lucky you might have the choice of two horses in the same race. The choice is often made based on the conditions on the day and not because one horse is better than the other, but owners can be a bit narky when when you don’t pick their horse. Making hard choices and upsetting people is something I don’t enjoy.
“But the weighing room is an enjoyable part of being a jockey. When 25 lads get together there’s always plenty of banter and you always look forward to going in to work. I am very lucky that I ride for a lot of good trainers and get on a lot of nice horses and that makes the job even more satisfying.”
I will have one eye out for what Dougie is riding during the Aintree meeting.
And, a couple of weeks later than intended, I wish him a happy birthday. As did the talented artist Darren Bird (see below).I want a Free £25 bet.
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