FORMER punk rocker David Bass has been making loud noises over the jumps this winter.
The top rider is enjoying his best ever season and is hoping to hit the high notes once again at this week’s Cheltenham Festival.
The Northamptonshire native is no stranger to success at the four-day meeting, but his book of rides this year is his strongest yet.
His career has taken off in recent years, and he puts that down to his relationship with resurgent trainer Kim Bailey – and turning vegan.
He said: “This season has been great. Kim’s horses have been in great form most of the year and we’ve got some really nice ones which makes my job easier.
“I do get quite a lot of banter from some of the lads in the weighing room about my veganism.
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“Kim likes to joke that if we were to go out for a meal, the only thing we’d have in common would be the peanuts on the bar.
“I’ve been a vegan for over two years and I like to think it has really helped me.
“My career is going better than ever and I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been. In the early days as a jockey I had a pretty bad diet, I used to binge and eat a lot of processed food.
“It’s not just the veganism I get teased for. I was a drummer in a punk band back in the day and let’s say I’m on the left side of the political spectrum, which I get plenty of stick for – but it’s all good fun!”
But the Cheltenham Festival is serious business and Bass is quietly confident of adding to his haul of three winners.
He reckons his best chance is Imperial Aura, who won the novice handicap chase at last year’s meeting.
The horse unseated Bass after just two fences in his prep race at Kempton in January, but he is confident that was just a blip.
Bass said: “I was really excited about what I felt from him at Carlisle first time out this season.
“I felt like he had improved a lot over the summer and that he was a horse who could be a genuine Grade 1 horse.
“He was impressive when he won at Ascot, he couldn’t have done it any easier.
“I hate making excuses about Kempton, but I’m convinced he was spooked.
“There was a large shadow across the fence and I think he was distracted by it and dived into the middle of the fence.
“Horses fall and unseat and that’s the way it is. He has schooled brilliantly since, his jumping is better the quicker you go.
“So hopefully the Ryanair will be run to suit him. It looks wide-open, but I think he is good enough to win.”
He isn’t short of chances earlier in the week, with First Flow set to take on Chacun Pour Soi and Altior in the Champion Chase.
The horse gave Bailey his first Grade 1 win in 26 years when winning the Clarence House at Ascot in January, and he is reported to be in fine form.
Bass said: “He is a great horse, a bit of a freak of an animal but a pleasure to be around.
“He is in great form. I rode him the other day and he was trying to bite me and kick me when I was saddling him.
“He was savage, but apparently that’s a sign that he’s feeling good about himself!
“He has loads of character and he has his own routine at home. He’s a credit to the team and he has turned into a bit of a winning machine.
“We always thought he was a heavy ground specialist, but the ground when he won at Ascot in January was only around good to soft. I think he goes there with a chance.”
Bailey recently threw a curveball when revealing high-class chaser Vinndication would be aimed at the Stayers’ Hurdle.
But it’s a move that Bass endorses and he is hoping the horse will be happier back over smaller obstacles.
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He said: “He is a horse I’ve always liked, people have probably got bored of me banging on about how good he is, but I’ve got so much faith in him.
“Last year I thought he was a certainty in the Ultima Chase last year, but he hadn't run since November and he got tired when he eventually finished fourth.
“He hasn’t run since the Ladbrokes Trophy, but this time we have got a racecourse gallop into him so he should be sharper.
“Hee was finding it hard over fences, so we thought we would give him a school over hurdles and he seemed to really enjoy it.
“The track will suit him and I think he could run really well in the Stayers’.”
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