As one of the best-loved members of the Weighing Room takes his bow, we look forward to this weekend's racing.
TOP JOCKEY FEHILY BOWS OUT AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME
Knowing when to stop is a dilemma that faces most top sportsmen eventually, and many get it wrong.
Not Noel Fehily. Fehily is all class, in and out of the saddle, and he pitched his imminent retirement perfectly when he announced it at The Festival™, presented by Magners following the shock 50-1 win of Eglantine Du Seuil and then swiftly made plans to bow out in appropriate fashion little more than a week later. That day has now come.
Fehily is an example to sportsmen in all disciplines. A slow burner in terms of success he has worked his way to the top through patience, perseverance and sheer professionalism.
The rewards have been worth waiting for, as he went on to notch up more than 1,300 wins including some of the most prized races at Jockey Club racecourses across the country.
Some of his biggest days include two King Georges and a Betfair Chase on Silviniaco Conti and Champion Hurdles on both Rock On Ruby and Buveur D’Air. Those triumphant days were before a neck injury last year and complications following more recent appendicitis surgery left him contemplating his future.
Hopefully there is at least one more winner to come for the quietly spoken Irishman, who has three good rides for his most loyal supporters at Newbury, his local track.
His final mount, Get In The Queue, was a Cheltenham gamble until Harry Fry decided to wait for a £50,000 bumper that he and Fehily have won for the last two years, with Bullionaire and Caribert.
Fehily is going out while still at the top of his game. Let’s all hope he goes out on a winner.
FARREL AND ZIGA COULD OFFER LAST MINUTE GRAND NATIONAL POINTERS
Terrestrial television coverage will have been concluded long before Fehily bids farewell to the weighing room, but by then ITV4 can be counted upon to have given us some pointers for the Randox Health Grand National in two weeks’ time.
Last year’s Scottish Grand National winner Joe Farrell carries top weight in the 3m 2f handicap chase at Newbury, using the race as a probable prep run for the Aintree showpiece on 6th April.
Another in the race with an entry in the National is Ziga Boy. Tom Bellamy rides for trainer Alan King and as bookmakers have him priced up at 100-1 to win at Aintree this might be a helpful pointer for us all.
CARDSHARP THE STAR ATTRACTION AS FLAT RACING PREPARES FOR RETURN TO TURF
There’s a good all-weather card at Kempton Park in the evening where Mark Johnston’s Cardsharp, a Group 2 winner and Group 1 placed as a two-year-old, is the star attraction in the 7f conditions race.
He’s looked on very good terms with himself since returning to action this winter and he was a good winner over this trip at Lingfield last time.
There’s plenty of interest elsewhere on the card, and it’s a reminder that turf racing resumes on the Flat next week that we are starting to see some of the top jockeys back in action again.
The sport is all the better for their return, and it will be particularly interesting to see how Jason Watson gets on following more than two months off through injury.
Watson was tipped for the top after last year’s runaway win in the race to be champion apprentice, and his rides include two for his new boss Roger Charlton.
CARLISLE TEST LOOKS RIGHT UP RAYVIN BLACK’S STREET
At Carlisle on Sunday what might prove one of the last opportunities this spring to race on truly testing going has attracted strong challengers from the south, where the ground has been drying out fast all week.
Among those making the trip are Venetia Williams, who specialises in mud lovers, last week’s Festival winners Ben Case and Ben Pauling, and Oliver Sherwood, who has a good record here.
Sherwood saddles one of the sport’s most lovable rogues when Rayvin Black carries top weight in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle. There’s no malice in Rayvin Black, but he only does things on his own terms and at Sandown Park last time he seemed to know at a very early stage that he was wasting his energy against dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air.
This 0-130 clearly represents a very different task and on ground he will relish he ought to be hard to pass - provided of course that he gets out of bed on the right side and is able to dominate.
EXETER CARD OFFERS QUITE THE SUNDAY FEAST FOR JUMPS FANS
There is also a cracking card at Exeter, where the feature races are a novices’ handicap that has attracted a clutch of in-form youngsters and a 3m handicap for more established chasers.
Some of the sport’s top jockeys – Richard Johnson, Tom Scudamore, Harry Cobden, Sam Twiston-Davies, Paddy Brennan and Aidan Coleman – are also turning out.
And when the weather is kind there are few more spectacular venues for jump racing than Exeter’s Haldon Hill.
It’s looking good at present – get yourself there.