After two near misses, jockey Henry Brooke is hoping that this will be the year and he will be crowned leading jockey at Cartmel, whose season gets under way with a three-day Whit fixture starting on Saturday May 27.
The Cartmel Jockeys Challenge, sponsored by the Swan Hotel and Spa, Newby Bridge, celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2017 with Brooke keen to step up after finishing runner-up to Richard Johnson in 2015 and Brian Hughes last year.
“I love riding at Cartmel and have had a lot of success there in recent years, but it has been a bit disappointing not to have finished top jockey at least once in the past couple of years” said Brooke.
Particularly heart-breaking was his defeat by champion jockey Johnson two years ago when Brooke led from day one and was still in front when the runners went to post for the last race of the campaign, having had more winners than Johnson despite having the same number of points.
In a dramatic final race, Johnson could finish only third, but the one point he collected pushed him past Brooke.
Since last year’s Cartmel campaign, when Brooke finished in front of Johnson, but was well held by winner Hughes, the jockey has had to recover from serious injuries sustained in a fall at Hexham, but he is back better than ever.
And he will start the Cartmel season as a winner, having been nominated to receive the Margaret Sexton Memorial Trophy for the outstanding moment of the 2016 season when he rode Altruism in the Weatherbys Hamilton Handicap Chase last July.
Altruism looked sure to win going to two out, but jinked to his left and in doing so the saddle slipped. Brooke defied gravity to stay on board and jumped the last and rode a finish without irons and was only just held by Fantasy King.
Brooke holds the perpetual trophy for one year and gets a cash prize of £500, while a further £250 is donated in his name to both St Mary’s Hospice at Ulverston and the British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre at Halton, near Lancaster.
“I am delighted to win this trophy” said Brooke, “it was a bit hairy when the saddle slipped but the survival instinct kicked in!”
The Bank Holiday race-meeting at Cartmel will go ahead as planned on Monday 29th May.
A thunder storm and heavy rain brought a premature end to the programme on Saturday, after the vehicle crossing points became waterlogged and unsafe for racing. The crossing material has been removed and will be re-laid on Sunday. The remainder of the track has drained well and the official going is described as Soft, Good to Soft in places. No problems are anticipated and racing goes ahead.
The first race is scheduled for 2.10pm with entertainment in the enclosures starting from 10.00am.
Cheshire trainer William Kinsey is facing a tricky decision at Cartmel this weekend as he weighs up the options for his talented course specialist Allbarnone.
In three visits to the Cumbrian course, the nine-year-old boasts a record of one win and two seconds – all of them over hurdles – but has been novice chasing so far this year and a switch to the Cartmel fences may be on the cards.
“He is entered in three races at Cartmel. On Saturday, he is in the English Lakes Ice Cream Handicap Hurdle, which he won last year, and on Monday I have him in the Oakmere Homes Handicap Hurdle and the Totepool Handicap Chase.
“Right now, I am not sure which one he will go for. He is rated 11lbs higher over hurdles than this time last year, but ran well at Cartmel off a similar rating last July, so I would be very optimistic should he go for one of the hurdle races.
“He has yet to win over fences, but has shown an aptitude for chasing and so that remains an option as well. I shall be giving it some thought over the next few days, but the one certainty is he will be running in one of them!” said Kinsey.
Cartmel’s nine-day season opens with the traditional Whit weekend triple header on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday. First race on Saturday is the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Novices Hurdle at 2.15.