Taunton on a Saturday might not sound the most high-profile fixture to be riding at, but it’s a very decent fixture - as you’d expect from what is a first-class venue.
Taunton has a great set-up, is well run and the prize-money is fantastic. There are a lot of racecourses, including plenty of bigger ones – I won’t mention names – who could learn a lot from Taunton.
To back this up, the big race is the Weatherbys Portman Cup Chase, which has £50,000 of prize-money on offer.
Royal Vacation is my hope of picking up a nice slice of that. I rode him in the London National at Sandown last month and he actually ran a lot better than his sixth place suggests.
He just struggled on the soft ground that day and this sounder surface will suit him much better. You only have to look at his previous effort – a close second in the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase – to see what he’s capable of.
It is a competitive race, as you’d expect for this prize-money, but he is capable of running a big race and Colin Tizzard has been in great form in the big Saturday races.
My best chance of the day probably lies with Thomas Darby who runs in the Elizabeth Day Supporting Injured Jockeys Fund Novices' Hurdle.
I haven’t ridden him before, but he has been highly tried since winning his bumper at Huntingdon and ran with credit each time.
This looks like being an easier option and hopefully he’ll get his head in front and enjoy a nice confidence-booster.
Before Midnight is another with a great chance in the British EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle.
Unlike Smackwater Jack, he doesn’t have to carry a 6lb penalty and was only beaten two lengths by Tidal Flow at Kempton last time.
There was a long way back to third that day and a repeat of that performance could be good enough.
What A Hoot, who I ride in the finale, was third under me on her only start in a bumper on the all-weather at Lingfield in November and she was another who ran better than her finishing position suggested.
She will definitely benefit for the experience and getting on the grass will suit her more. I would say she has a decent each-way chance.
Sunday service at Exeter:
I am also in the West Country on Sunday, as I have two rides at Exeter.
Haldon Hill won his bumper over the course and distance and the starsports.bet Maiden Hurdle looks a good opportunity to follow up providing his inexperience doesn’t count against him.
My other ride is Shang Tang who I rode when he finished sixth on his debut at Chepstow.
He runs in the First For Industry Jobs Visit starrecruitment.bet Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
If he can build on that first effort and replicate the promise he has shown at home, he should run very well.