Fran Berry reflects on a “year of progression” and looks ahead to three good rides on the final day of the Flat season at Doncaster.

Doncaster – The final day…

It’s hard to believe the Flat season is drawing to a close, it’s gone so quickly, but I’m signing off with three decent rides at Doncaster including a live each-way chance in the Marathonbet November Handicap.

Downforce – 2.05 Doncaster

He’s a nice ride to pick up for Willie McCreery. I’ve not ridden for him much but I know Willie well and it looks interesting that he sends the horse over. It’s a typical end of season Listed sprint so it looks open and on the form of his Group Three second at Naas back in April he’s have a chance.

Restorer – 3.15 Doncaster

He’s definitely got a lice chance as while there are a couple in there who could be ahead of the handicapper, Restorer isn’t badly treated at all from a mark of 98 and isn’t completely exposed at this sort of trip. He got up narrowly to beat the reopposing Hochfel at Leicester and we came a few lengths clear of the third.

Lihou – 3.50 Doncaster

You can put a line through his last run and it wasn’t my finest hour in the saddle in truth. He was keen and I took him back a bit but just lost position. He could never get into the race and the ground was probably too soft for him. He doesn’t mind cut but it was quite extreme. He’s down in class here and has been eased another 2lb in the weights. The Brocklesby ride on Lihou was the first of the Flat season so it would be a nice way to bookend the campaign if I could win on Lihou on the final day.

Lihou battles to Kempton glory

Lihou battles to Kempton glory over Kinks

2018 highlights…

Thundering Blue

It’s been quite the year for this horse. At any point in your career as a jockey you need the right horses to come along and I’m lucky to have stumbled across Thundering Blue.

He’s just improved and improved and was probably a little unlucky not to win the John Smith’s Cup. But he did win twice at York anyway, including the valuable Sky Bet York Stakes, and then the third in the Juddmonte International confirmed just how far he’d come.

To win out in Sweden was a great experience and he lost nothing in defeat in the Canadian International at Woodbine last time.

The plan is to go for the Japan Cup on November 25 and it won’t end there for Thundering Blue as he’ll race on next season so plenty of more big days lie ahead with any luck. There will be plenty of options to travel next year too.

Horses of this calibre are hard to find and even harder to hang to. It’s been a great association with David Menuisier this year. He, Clive (Washbourn, owner) and myself have had a really enjoyable association.

Thundering Blue wins well at York

Thundering Blue wins well at York

Magic Circle

Going back to win the Chester Cup 12 months after a wide draw beat him the year before was really satisfying and great for Ian Williams who has been a great supporter of mine.

Other than Stradivarius I think Magic Circle has been just about as good an any other stayer in 2018 and the Melbourne Cup not working out for him shouldn’t take anything away from him.

Magic Circle

Magic Circle wins the Chester Cup

Gracious John

He’s always worth a mention as he’s been such a start for connections. He won a Listed at Lingfield earlier in the year and then it was great to pick up a nice handicap at Newbury on him too.

He’s been a great horse throughout the all-weather and turf seasons really and I always enjoy getting on him.

Star of the season…

Roaring Lion would be the star of the season for me, domestically at least. Enable was brilliant in the Arc and the Breeders’ Cup Turf but she only raced once in Britain. From where Roaring Lion started in the Craven, you’d almost put a line through him then, but he came back fighting and has been at every dogfight over just about every trip. At York and Leopardstown he was sensational and dropping back to win over a mile at Ascot on unsuitable ground was the sign of a champion.

2018 Coral Eclipse – Roaring Lion – Racing UK

Jockey of the year…

Oisin Murphy riding over 120 winners has been really impressive and he’s obviously made a massive breakthrough in the Group One races too. He’s had a huge season all round. I’m also a massive fan of Silvestre De Sousa, who was crowned champion for a third time – all credit to him to rack up so many winner. Franny Norton and Rab Havlin also deserve mention here too – they’ve been fantastic all year and it’s great to see them doing what they’re doing as experienced riders.

High praise for fellow jockey Franny Norton

Hopes for 2019…

You won’t see me riding in the UK for a bit as I’ll have a short break before going out for the Japan Cup but it’ll be full steam ahead again from December and I hope to keep increasing the number of rides and the quality of horses. It’s been a season of real progression and hopefully we can kick on again into 2019.

Five to follow…

Alfred Boucher – Trained by Henry Candy, he’s a two-year-old that has shown an awful lot of promise in his three starts, improving each time, and he was short-headed by subsequent Horris Hill winner Mohaather at Nottingham. He remains a maiden of interest going forward.

Beyond Equal – It’s normally quite tough for three-year-old sprinters but he’s won four times this year and really come good at the end of the season, winning twice for me. I’d be amazed if there wasn’t more to come from him at four, especially with a bit of cut in the ground.

Danceteria – I’m convinced we’ve still not seen the best of him yet and the ground was just too deep for him at Chantilly in midweek. It rained overnight but he performed well in the circumstances (fourth) and he’s definitely a horse to keep an eye on.

Chief Ironside – The same applies as to Danceteria. He’s just not fully developed yet and still managed to run some good races in smart company. I’m looking forward to him next season.

Harbour Breeze – Lucy Wadham’s colt hasn’t been out since I rode him in third at Newmarket back in May but he gave me a good feel and is one to note if popping up with an entry over the winter of into 2019.

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