Sean Bowen: Treble-seeking Francky has been there and done it
Jockey and Coral ambassador Sean Bowen discusses the season so far and the chances of his five rides at Market Rasen on Saturday.
The season is obviously going brilliantly so far, we set out to have a go at the championship, but no matter how well you think it might go, when it goes this well it’s still a nice surprise.
I’m fortunate in that the trainers I ride for are all flying right now, and my agent Alain Cawley is doing a great job, so long may it continue, but I know it’s a long season, and Brian (Hughes) and Harry (Cobden) have big yards behind them throughout the whole season.
This weekend at Market Rasen is an important one to dad (Peter) and always has been, he’s always had summer jumpers, and this day has lots of prize money up for grabs, so it’s always been a day he’s targeted. We’ve had lots of luck here over the years, and we go here with some nice sorts this year.
Coal Fire is a funny horse, we got him handicapped and we thought he’d be OK, but it’s taken time for him to find his form. Last time was a big step forward, he stayed on well at Stratford, and while he will need to take another step forward, there’s no reason why he can’t. He jumped slightly out to the right last time, so going right-handed here should suit as well.
Gavin has done really well since joining dad, winning twice and finishing second last time, to a horse who was probably well handicapped. Like Coal Fire, this fellow is taking a step up in class, but he’s a strong traveller who should be suited by a decent pace. He’s another of dad’s in good form, and I hope he can run well.
Francky Du Berlais has won this Summer Plate for the last two years, and with my brother, James, who rode him to both victories, out injured at the moment, I’ve picked up the ride.
He ran well last time, he just got outpaced turning in but stayed on well, and it was a nice confidence booster to finish third, having run in big races at Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring. He’s off last year’s winning mark, so I hope he can complete the treble.
That said, it wasn’t a straightforward choice to ride him, as dad runs Courtland here as well, and he’s won his last three, including here last time. He’s improving all the time, and ability wise I don’t think there’s much between them.
I’ve gone for Francky as he has the experience in these big fields and has been here and done it twice before, whereas Courtland is yet to run in a race of this size, and it could just find him out, but equally it would be no surprise to see him there or thereabouts. A one-two for dad would be nice!
I had another choice to make here between this horse for Olly Murphy and Buck Of Maine for dad. In this situation, I’m very lucky in that I can talk it through with both trainers and my agent, and we make a decision between us, and fortunately the trainers involved know that I’m aiming for the championship, and they’re very supportive of whatever decision I make.
Sobegrand is progressing with every run, he hit the line really hard last time and I think the step up in trip will really suit him here, I’ve always felt he was a horse who would get further. Olly’s horses are in great form, so I’m really looking forward to this.
As for Buck Of Maine, he’s got OK Bumper form, and has schooled well, but he is making his debut over hurdles, so I’ve gone for the horse with experience over obstacles.
Gary Hanmer is another big supporter of mine, and his Tio Mio is fit from running on the Flat. He’s in handicap company here and will need to take a step forward on what he’s shown over hurdles so far, but with that fitness on his side, that is possible.