For most, the Gold Cup is this week’s Cheltenham Festival biggy – closely followed by tomorrow’s Champion Hurdle and Arkle.
For Tadcaster-born Henry Brooke, though, it is all about Friday’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle in which he hopes to cap a sensational season by going one better than last year.
Brooke, still only 21, finished runner-up in last year’s renewal on Son Of Flicka in his first season as a conditional jockey for Cheshire-based ace Donald McCain.
The former Easingwold Grammar student did indeed show flickers of brilliance in that first season which featured 17 winners, but this term his star is truly shining with an amazing 37 successes already on the board.
The youngster, who was brought up in Middleham, currently leads the Conditional Jockeys’ championship race ahead of Nicky Henderson’s young star David Bass, and Brooke is even 21st in the full jockey’s standings behind inevitable leader Tony McCoy.
However, while AP and co target glory in this week’s Grade One races, for Brooke, the Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle is his Gold Cup.
“I don’t know what rides I’ll have at Cheltenham but hopefully I’ll be there and have one in the boys race on Friday,” Yorkshireman Brooke told the YEP.
“I was second in it last year on Son Of Flicka and it would be nice to go one better, but if you can’t, you can’t.
“He’s entered in it again and so is Bourne, who I won on the other weekend, so we’ll have to see. But hopefully I can have a ride in there and hopefully something else.
“That was my first ride at Cheltenham last year and you don’t realise just how many people are there.”
If he gets in, the lightly-weighted Bourne will be among the favourites for next Friday’s Conditionals Race but, whatever happens with his own fate, Brooke knows the McCain yard looks destined to enjoy a decent week.
Peddlers Cross, who runs in Thursday’s Jewson, and Cinders And Ashes, who runs in tomorrow’s Supreme, are the two obvious star acts but the young jockey is also predicting a big run from Overturn in tomorrow’s Champion Hurdle.
Reindeer Dippin, entered in both the Coral Cup and Pertemps Final on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, plus another Pertemps Final entry Across The Bay are two more quietly-fancied outsiders.
“We think Overturn will run well,” said Brooke.
“He’s a big price (25-1) but he’s been there before and Donald will have him spot on so he could well run a big race.
“Obviously there is Peddlers Cross and Cinders And Ashes but other than that there will just be little things that come up and surprise you like Reindeer Dippin and Across The Bay.
“They are both big prices and could be a bit of value if they run into a place.”
Good value also could be a small wager on Brooke to be a champion jockey of the future at likely big odds, but the Cheshire-based rider who shares the same agent as Paul Hanagan in Richard Hale is refusing to get carried away.
And in any case, the star conditional has warned there will one day be a better jockey than him from his own family – younger brother Danny!
“Things have been going well for me and it’s nice to be riding so many winners,” said Brooke, who fell in love with racing aged 16 when his mum Julia bought him a point to point racehorse.
“I’m only 21 so I’m still young and I’ve got plenty of time ahead of me but I think my little brother will be better than me!
“He’s 13 and just started his pony racing and they always say that the younger born is a bit better and I think that will be the case as he’s doing well in pony racing at the moment.
“He’s at Leyburn Grammar at the moment but he’s already after a job at Donald’s!”