TWO Ryedale jockeys – Paul Hanagan and Tom Eaves – have had their talents recognised by being nominated for prestigious awards at the Stobart Lesters, to be held in Birmingham in April.
The coveted annual awards, organised by the Professional Jockeys’ Association, are racing’s ‘Oscars’, named in honour of Lester Piggott, arguably the greatest of all jockeys.
Hanagan, Ryedale’s celebrated dualchampion, who picked up three Lesters at last year’s glittering dinner, has been nominated for a brace of awards this time – Flat Jockey of the Year and Flat Ride of the Year, the latter being earned from his powerful and thrilling victory last April at Newmarket aboard Barefoot Lady, trained by his boss Richard Fahey, in the Nell Gwyn Stakes.
Hanagan’s rivals in this category are North Yorkshire counterpart Silvestre de Sousa, for his handling of Art History at Pontefract in September, Tom Queally for his spectacular all-the-way win on superstar Frankel in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, and Richard Hughes for his smooth-as-you-like victory aboard Dubawi Gold at Goodwood in August.
In the Flat Jockeys’ title, Hanagan, who won his second successive British championship last November, is opposed by de Sousa, who finished second to him in the championship, classic-winning rider William Buick and Eaves, whose 2011 campaign was highlighted by his firstever Group 1 success.
That memorable occasion was achieved at Longchamp in October when he won the Prix de l’Abbeye on the Bryan Smart-trained Tangerine Trees. It was, coincidentally, at the same meeting the previous year that Hanagan also posted his first Group 1 triumph on Wootton Bassett in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.
In the Apprentice Jockey of the Year title, Julie Burke, who is attached to Kevin Ryan’s Hambleton yard, is one of the four nominees. She is rivalled by Harry Bentley, Kieren O’Neill and Martin Harley, who was last season’s champion apprentice.
• ONE of the local success stories of the jumps season so far has been that of Harry Haynes, who has seen a significant rise in fortunes since he moved to Malton in the autumn.
Haynes, previously based on the Scottish Border with trainer James Ewart, suffered two pile-driving falls last season, each time suffering concussion, the second of which brought several months on the sidelines.
Since then, he has never looked back. Joining forces with Norton trainer Malcolm Jefferson has paid rich dividends, not least his association with According To Pete, who, having clinched the valuable Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby’s Christmas meeting, obliged again for the newly-founded Newstead partnership in last month’s Grade 2 Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock.
A tilt at the Grand National in April may be on the cards for the likeable gelding, whom Jefferson feels is more than capable of coping with the unique Aintree test.
In the meantime, Jefferson and Haynes notched their latest success last week at Newcastle with bumper performer King Of The Wolds, who produced a strong gallop to open his account at odds of 9-1.
• BLUE BAJAN, who found a new lease of life on the Flat last year in the hands of David O’Meara, is limbering up for another campaign, but is unlikely to be seen over hurdles in the meantime.
A once high-class hurdler, who won the valuable Swinton Hurdle in 2008, finished a close-up third in a Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle and even ran in a Champion Hurdle, Blue Bajan is now markedly more favourably handicapped at the age of 10 than when he was last seen over hurdles.
O’Meara, however, has no current plans to switch him back to the jumping game, even briefly, before the Flat campaign reaches full swing.
“It was a consideration but we’re not thinking seriously about it at the moment,” says the trainer, who confirms the gelding to be in fine form.
“He’s grand and is moving really well.”
Blue Bajan was a surprise package last season. In his first term with O’Meara, he won the Group 2 Henry ll Stakes at Sandown and suffered narrow defeats in the Yorkshire Cup at York and the Goodwood Cup.
O’Meara, meanwhile, is ticking over nicely over jumps. His latest victory came at Newcastle last week with Spiekeroog, a former Henry Ceciltrained Flat inmate, who gained his first hurdles win under Denis O’Regan.
“He can be a bit quirky and Denis rode a great race on him,” said O’Meara. “He’s improved in his three races since he went hurdling, but we’ll probably take our time with him now before we run him again.”
• DECISIONS, decisions and more decisions have to be made by trainers when the wintry weather gets a grip. Just ask Peter Niven.
The Ryedale handler was tempted to send his North Yorkshire Grand National winner Posh Bird to Ffos Las last weekend for a £30,000 handicap chase, in which she would have been among the favourites.
Although hopes were seemingly high among course officials that Saturday’s meeting would survive the weather, Niven reckoned otherwise and decided not to send her to the South Wales venue the day before, for fear of the fixture being lost. Come Saturday morning and the meeting was abandoned.
“It would have been an eight-hour journey, and, with the price of diesel these days, you just can’t run the risk of sending a horse all that way when there’s a major threat of the meeting not being on,” explained Niven.
Forty-eight hours later, and remarkably, after a frost-free night in Scotland, Posh Bird turned up at Ayr and ran a blinder to be only narrowly beaten into second in the feature race. Success went to Mister Marker, the mount of Dougie Costello.
• RYEDALE trainers will be keeping their fingers crossed the weather improves to allow Saturday’s richlyendowed meeting at Newbury to go ahead.
Brian Ellison could be double-handed in the Betfair Handicap Hurdle, the richest race of its kind in Britain, with Marsh Warbler and Abergavenny, while Tim Walford has Ubi Ace in the mix and Malcolm Jefferson has entered Attaglance.
It promises to be a nervous wait for those involved.
George Chaloner, the sidelined Norton apprentice, has another date with his specialist this week, and is hoping to take the next step towards his return to the saddle.
Chaloner, who is attached to Richard Fahey’s Malton yard, broke his knee and suffered ligament and tendon damage in a riding-out incident in December, when he was kicked by another horse while in the saddle.
Originally, his leg was fitted with a brace to keep it straight and Chaloner was warned not to put weight on it. Since then, the young rider has had another brace fitted, which allows movement up to 45 degrees and allows him to walk around with crutches.
“I am due to go back to see my specialist on Thursday,” reports Chaloner. “If he’s happy with my progress, another brace will be fitted, which will allow 90 degrees of movement. I can definitely see an improvement in the leg.”
Chaloner expects the new brace to be in place for about a fortnight, by which time he hopes to be ready to head off to the Injured Jockeys’ Fund much-applauded facility, Oaksey House in Lambourn, for a two-week stay and some intensive physiotherapy.
• IAN BRENNAN, who at the beginning of last Flat season, suddenly quit his successful job with Norton trainer John Quinn, has resumed his riding career in his native Ireland.
Brennan, one of the country’s leading apprentices before his shock departure, spent much of last year work-riding in Australia, but he had three mounts at Dundalk last weekend, all for Irish trainer Adrian McGuinness. None of them made the frame, but it was good to see Brennan back in the action.
It was in September 2009 that Brennan was lucky to escape with his life when jumping from a window from the Norton flats fire, which cost the lives of teenage apprentices Jamie Kyne and Jan Wilson.