Angus Cheleda; “Getting a Cheltenham ride is massive”

We are now just a few days away from the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, and while the preview shows are in full swing, I thought I’d catch-up with somebody who is going to be right in the thick of the action next week.

Regular readers of my blog will be well aware of my involvement with the Paul Nicholls-trained Alcala who is entered to run in the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham next Friday, which is the race after the Gold Cup.

He’ll be partnered by up-and-coming jockey Angus Cheleda in the saddle next week, with the pair already getting into the winner’s enclosure together at Haydock earlier this year.

The youngster is starting to make a real name for himself under the stewardship of champion trainer Paul Nicholls, so I asked Angus a few questions as he gets set for his first-ever ride at the Cheltenham Festival.

How much are you looking forward to riding Alcala and having your first ride at the Cheltenham Festival?

“I’m really looking forward to riding him, I know him really well now and ride him a lot at home.

“It’s personally a massive achievement for me as it’s always been a dream of mine to ride at the Festival and I’m incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity on such a classy horse for the champion trainer, along with such lovely owners.”

Alcala had to qualify late on because of his fall at Ludlow, but how impressed have you been with him this season, especially when winning at Haydock?

“Obviously, him having that unlucky fall at Ludlow wasn’t ideal, but I think he’s been brilliant coming back from such a long time off, and it’s lovely to see he still races with such enthusiasm!

“The Haydock win was massive. The ground wasn’t really in his favour that day and he beat a decent horse called Wishing and Hoping.”

What do you think is the best way to ride him and how do you plan to go about the Foxhunters?

“I will obviously ride him however Paul instructs me to.

“Personally, I think we would try and drop him in a bit to ensure he gets the trip on the ground, but that entirely comes down to what Mr Nicholls wants to do.

“I think the main things are to just get him settled, as he can run a bit free, then we’ll try and get him into a nice rhythm and get him jumping.”

Bob And Co just got the better of him last time at Fontwell, but do you think there is much between them?

“I don’t think Alcala was given enough credit at Fontwell last time. He only had a hard race eight days previously and the ground was very soft.

“I wasn’t too hard on him, so I think he ran brilliantly on the day to be only being beaten a length and a half.

“I don’t think there’s much to split them.”

Alcala was your first winner for Paul Nicholls, but how much are you enjoying working for the champion trainer?

“The first winner for a new boss is always very special and it was great to be able to put things right in such a prestigious hunter chase, especially after Ludlow.

“Overall, I’m loving my new job and Mr Nicholls is a very fair and generous man to work for. I’m getting plenty of opportunities to school lots of horses and very grateful for any rides I get on the track.”

Have you had the opportunity to ride out any of Paul’s other Cheltenham hopes and how have you got on with them?

“I’ve not had the opportunity to ride any other Cheltenham hopes just yet, but we have a few entries in the other amateur races, so we may get lucky.”

What is your pre-race routine and will you do anything different ahead of Cheltenham?

“My pre-race routine will be as it always is. Get there with plenty of time, drop my kit off and have a good walk around the course.

“I like to have a good look at the ground and where best I am to position myself.

“I’ll then head back to the weighing room, have a shower and try and relax and enjoy the day ahead.”

On a personal note, how big an achievement is it for you to be riding at the Cheltenham Festival, especially after suffering such a serious injury?

“Riding at Cheltenham this year is a massive achievement.

“It’s something I’ve always aimed at and it’s what you dream of as a kid.

“The injury itself (breaking his neck at Taunton), means I’m just very grateful for the support I’ve had and the confidence I’ve been given to get back riding.

“I think that’s a massive thing, and I only have Paul and Harry Derham to thank for that, along with many others.

You’ve enjoyed some great success in the point-to-point sphere recently with Chameron winning the Coronation Cup at Larkhill, how do P2P’s differ from racing under rules for a jockey?

“I seem to be getting on really well with the pointing this season, but that massively helps when your riding for such great people like Mr and Mrs Loxton.

“My aim is to be the champion novice this year.

“Pointing is a lot more of a social event, it’s brilliant fun and I really enjoy it.

“Comparing it to under rules, you get into the same sort of situations but riding under rules I absolutely love, as you get the chance to ride at some of the top-class tracks around the UK.”

Finally, other than Alcala who is your fancy for the Festival – either one of Paul’s or another?

“I don’t have much to do with tipping or anything, but Solo looks to be a very nice prospect for the future.

“I think he would have a massive chance after his very impressive win at Kempton last time.”

I’m sure you will all join me in wishing Angus the very best of luck for Cheltenham and the future. Fingers crossed both him and Alcala can give a great account of themselves at the Festival and come back safe and sound. 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Stephen Bennett says:

    Another excellent interview, very enjoyable.

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