Alex Hammond reflects on the drama of the jumps season

Thursday 26 March 2020 14:37, UK

Truckers Lodge ridden by jockey Lorcan Williams on the way to winning the Marston's 61 Deep Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter
Image: Truckers Lodge winning the Midlands Grand National

The Sky Sports Racing presenter returns with her thoughts on the National Hunt season and some early big-race fancies for 2021.

Hi everyone, how are you bearing up?

I hope you are all still healthy and if you are in self isolation are keeping yourselves amused. It's incredible how we all adapt to these strange times.

I've found myself fitness training in my garden after my PT discovered Skype! No let up on that front and I'm sure he's ramped things up a gear...

I'm using this blog to try and distract you for five minutes and for those of you that are still tuning in to Sky Sports Racing, thank you. We are obviously still broadcasting some live action in difficult circumstances and just as I was getting to grips with the South African form they have also sensibly drawn stumps.

You guys are incredible. John Blance and I were in the studio together on Wednesday (two metres apart before you ask, I paced it out!) covering the racing from Happy Valley in Hong Kong and Fairview in South Africa.

John is the guru when it comes to HK and once again gave us four decent priced winners. I managed to find 3 shorties and a bob of the head second at Fairview, which after my previous week's performance was pretty good.

Latest Racing Stories

What was remarkable though was the interaction we had with you all at home. The emails poured in and it was great fun answering them and getting plenty the thoughts of our wonderful viewers. I'm back in on Saturday evening with Jason 'The Shark' Weaver and I'm sure that will be equally as entertaining, so hopefully see you then for the Stateside action.

What I thought I'd chat to you about this week was some of my highlights from the 2019/20 National Hunt season, which has been curtailed, but by and large we have enjoyed the majority of it.

Granted, it's sad that Aintree has fallen by the wayside, but hopefully Tiger Roll will be back in 2021 and bid for a third Randox Health Grand National win. Having said that, for those of you that are about to read on, I think he may face some stiff opposition.

Let's kick off with that point then. Uttoxeter's Midlands National meeting was the last fixture I will attend for some time, but for those of you that saw our show or were there, the winner of the feature race looks the real deal for me.

It's worth reminding you that Potters Corner won the 2019 renewal and went on to win the Welsh National in December for up-and-coming trainer Christian Williams.

Well, the race was won this time round by the trainer who provided Christian with many of his winners as a jockey; Paul Nicholls. I was a big fan of Truckers Lodge going into the race as I couldn't believe he had only been raised 2lbs by the handicapper for his runner-up effort behind Potters Corner in the festive feature.

Needless to say his heroics at the Staffordshire venue have seen him raised another stone in the ratings, but I think that is well deserved. He looks a proper National type and is currently a tempting 33/1 non-runner no bet with Sky Bet for next year's Aintree extravaganza.

Speaking of the Welsh National, there were great scenes in the winners' enclosure after Potters Corner's win for his locally-based trainer.

Those are the days that make our sport such a wonderful distraction and young conditional Jack Tudor was faultless in executing the mission to perfection. We had him as a guest on the Get In show on Sky Sports Racing and he's incredibly switched on and very laid back. He's a jockey set for big things.

Let's get onto the unluckiest loser of the season. I wouldn't be as silly to take anyone's bets when it comes to guessing who wins that award.

Goshen is a horse whose progress we have followed closely on Sky Sports Racing, from his first win on the flat at Brighton, through his erratic successful hurdling debut at Fontwell, then onto his demolition job at Ascot; his final start before that fateful run in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Let's not dwell on the unlucky events that prevented him getting that much deserved Grade One success, but bring it forward to what he could now achieve. I think we saw a horse who can dominate the hurdling division for some time to come.

He's an exceptional talent and Sky Bet are currently offering 5/1 on him winning the Champion Hurdle in 2021, but more tempting is the 33/1 about him winning the next two.

Whilst we are on the theme of consecutive Festival successes. Al Boum Photo emulated the great Best Mate by becoming the first horse to win back-to-back Gold Cup's since Henrietta Knight's star and he's already 6/1 joint favourite with Santini to make it three next March.

Willie Mullins is a lovely guy and I'm not sure you'd meet a more laid-back fella. His operation at Closutton has to be seen to be believed and the top class winners that come out of the yard is quite incredible.

I certainly wouldn't bet against him making it three in a row, but I'm also happy enough to have a bit on my old mate Lostintranslation at 16s, because in a quiet week for team Tizzard, he ran a blinder to finish third.

On a personal note, with the jumps season being cut short, I've lost the opportunity to try finish in the top three of the Racing Post Naps Competition, assuming it's definitely been wrapped up.

I'm pretty satisfied with fourth though, which is my highest placing to date. Let's hope when racing resumes I can keep up the good run.

Anyway folks, stay safe and keep looking after yourselves and each other.