Jockey Tom Bellamy hopes he can make up for missed opportunities in the past when getting down to his minimum weight at Cheltenham on Saturday (December 15th) aboard Grandeur D’Ame, who he feels has an each-way chance of hitting the jackpot in the feature £130,000 Virgin Bet December Gold Cup.
Standing at 6ft tall, the 29-year-old will be one of the tallest jockeys to walk out of the weighing room and ride in the extended two-and-a-half-mile feature contest, which has attracted a field of 12 runners on the second day of The Christmas Meeting at The Home of Jump Racing.
Although on ratings the Alan King-trained seven-year-old, who is a pound out of the handicap, has a bit to find the Stow-on-the-Wold based rider believes it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he unlocks further improvement in the Premier Handicap.
However, while Bellamy is looking forward to his ride on the gelded son of Desir D’Un Soir, who is a 14-1 chance with the race sponsor, he admits that it would have been a ride he wouldn’t have been able to take in previous seasons due to not being able to make 10st 2lbs.
Bellamy said “I’m 6ft tall and it is hard to make this sort of weight and I wouldn’t be doing it every day. I eat a lot better than I used to and I’m a bit more sensible with my diet which as I’ve grown up has allowed me to take rides at this weight.
“In years gone by I would have been sat in the weighing room watching other jockeys get these sort of rides, but now I’m in a much better position that I can take rides like this in big handicaps.
“I wouldn’t be doing this for a trainer I don’t normally ride for, and I would save it for when I’m needed to make that weight, but Saturday is most certainly one of those occasions.
“He is out of the handicap, which never helps, but not by far. We go there optimistic rather than hopeful and he should have an each-way chance. Anything else would be a bonus.”
Despite being a double-figure price for his next assignment Grandeur D’Ame brings winning form into the race having bolted up by 25 lengths at Wetherby on his most recent start.
And with conditions set to be in favour of the five-time race winner Bellamy believes there is no reason why he can’t take another step forward.
The rider continued: “I won on him last season at Huntingdon, but that was at a much lower level than this, however he has won a couple more races since then.
“Every time he runs he seems to pull a bit more out of the bag. You don’t want to be on one that is on a downward curve in a race like this and although he will have to improve massively again there is every chance he could do that.
“When I won on him at Huntingdon last season I wouldn’t have been dreaming he could have ended up in a race like this, but that race was the first step of improvement from him over fences and since then he has come on leaps and bounds.
“Softer ground seems to be his bag as when it is like that he seems to be able to gallop them into submission. When it is good ground they go more of a gallop and that just puts him under a bit more pressure so really it is a case of the softer the better for him.
“I think he has improved for going up to this sort of trip, but it has taken him time to get him to conserve energy in his races which you need to do in a race like this.
“I think the way the race will be run will suit him and the soft ground will help him.”
While victory would be a welcome boost to Bellamy’s season it would also be a fitting success with it arriving aboard a horse trained by Grade One-winning handler King given the pair go back a long way together.
He added: “Alan is a top trainer, and it is nice to be riding in a big race like this for him. I’m number one for Emma (Lavelle) and number two at Alan’s but it hasn’t always worked out logistically this season.
“Often when Tom Cannon hasn’t been able to ride one of Alan’s horses another jockey has come in as I’ve been at another meeting.
“We go back a long way as I rode for Alan as a conditional jockey, and it was Choc (Robert Thornton) who initially got me in there.
“He is one of the most loyal men in racing. I’ve had plenty of good days, but there have been bad days too and he has stood by me through thick and thin. He is a great trainer to work with.”
Before Bellamy gets the leg up on Grandeur D’Ame he will partner the Jack Jones-trained An Bradan Feasa, who appears the pick of his supporting rides, in the opening JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.
Having found only the exciting Burdett Road too strong on his previous start at the track Bellamy is confident the Camelot gelding has every chance of going one better on this occasion.
He added: “An Bradan Feasa is a nice horse for a trainer that is going places. He did everything right bar win last time, but the right one was in front of us that day as Burdett Road looks exceptional.
“Although this is on the New Course opposed to the Old one any form around Cheltenham is a massive plus. He seemed to stay well the last day and he goes there with a live chance.