David Maxwell is preparing for an arduous ride when lining up on Shantou Flyer in Friday’s St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Comfortably clear in the Point-to-Point Racing Company-sponsored leading hunter chase rider award with five winners, and one ahead of Sam Waley-Cohen – nine wins to eight – in the Amateur Jockeys' Association's gentleman jockeys' title for wins under Rules, Maxwell (pictured above) is not expecting to be swinging on the steel during Friday's three-and-a-quarter mile test. He has ridden nine-year-old Shantou Flyer to victories at Kelso and Fontwell this season, but the pair were beaten first time out at Warwick when sent off favourite.
Maxwell said of Shantou Flyer, who he acquired for the start of the current hunters' chase season: "He's not the easiest of rides. He doesn't travel particularly well and tends to come off the bridle a fair way out – he needs a good old shove along, and for someone like myself, over 40, perhaps I need more of an armchair. Anyway, he's not an armchair so I just have to steel myself to ride him. I've been putting in extra time on the Equiciser.
"He should have won three hunters' chases this season off his rating, but was well beaten in his first [at Warwick, when fifth to Hazel Hill] and it might have been a case of me understanding how he needs to be ridden. He loves Cheltenham, the softer the ground the better, and he wouldn't be without a chance.
"Richard says he is in great form and is struggling to contain himself he's so excited about running the horse."
Maxwell is heading to Carlisle on Sunday to ride another member of his hunters' chase string, Road To Riches, who is travelling to the Cumbrian track from David Christie's yard in Northern Ireland. "I think he ran perfectly nicely first time out [when second at Carlisle last week]. The plan is to run on Sunday and then possibly go to Aintree [for the Randox Health Foxhunters' Chase]."
Bourne books Barry
Owner/trainer Daniel Bourne, who plans to saddle Asockastar in Friday's big hunters' chase at Cheltenham, has booked leading Irish amateur Barry O'Neill for the ride.
O'Neill, who rides regularly for leading point-to-point handler Colin Bowe, has won the Irish point-to-point riders' title for the past two seasons, and is well clear in this year's title race. On Tuesday he rode Discorama into second place in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival.
Pontypool-based Bourne said: "Barry is a top boy who I feel will get on well with the horse. I phoned a friend who put me in touch and Barry said he would ride him. Fingers crossed it goes to plan."
Asockastar finished second in last season's Timico Mixed Open Final at Cheltenham, and was later runner-up in Stratford's Pertemps Champion Hunters' Chase. He opened his account this season with a win at Leicester.