An Al Duncan musing

18th January 2015 : 'Hey Al, Callum is riding well this season...'

It was during one of our irregular Saturday morning racing catch-ups yesterday, that Lucky Dave remarked 'Hey Al, Callum (Whillans) is really riding well this season'.
We went on to discuss that he must be really keen as well, riding 2 at Musselburgh on Friday, then 2 at Taunton on Saturday. A long drive in treacherous conditions.
'I think he'll have a winner too' went on Lucky Dave.
Not to be outdone, I replied 'Yeah, Super Sam (went on to finish third) has got a chance in the last'
'Oh, I fancy his other mount Abundantly (won 9-4)' opined Lucky Dave.

He is not given that moniker reticently.

He ended the day with odds of 25's about Dodging Bullets for the Champion Chase, and last weekend our friend-of-the-stable managed to snap up 10s about our Kelso winner Shady (sp 4-1). He's been known to bet 100-1 Grand National winners, and no it wasn't Fionavon back in '67, but I'm sure if his dad had shown the cradled Lucky Dave a list of runners, he'd have hit that winner's name with his rattle as well.

Anyway, I had been thinking of writing a little about Callum a couple of weeks ago, but sometimes I just need a little nudge from a fellow racing enthusiast to put pen to paper (you mean a kick up the ****, ed). Callum has been riding around a dozen winners a season in recent years, and continues to improve his technique, strength and race-riding skills with experience. And obviously learning from mistakes. I mean, doesn't everybody - me, especially as I've learnt so much from my mistakes in life, I'm planning on making a few more....

I remember seeing Callum on one of my first visits to Dolands, when this thin, fresh faced 15 yr old strolled down to the yard for first lot, complete with shining riding boots, racing whip in hand which he flicked playfully against his boots. 'Here comes Tony McCoy' teased Dave McComb as the teenager went over to inspect Donald's lot list.
Fast forward to a handicap hurdle at Musselburgh in early December, Callum is on the free-travelling Claude Carter who is upsides the McCoy ridden Lucky Cody. Disputing lead for over 1½miles in the 2½mile contest, I watched on and expected Claude Carter to empty quickly 3 out. But no, it was Lucky Cody who paid the price for making the pace, with Claude Carter running the race of his life to finish 4th, beaten just 3l.

'Hmmnn, that was quite impressive' I thought to myself, as I'm inclined to do at racecourses.....

Callum followed this up with three outstanding, but differing, rides on Snapping Turtle again bringing out best ever performances in that 10yr-old gelding during December & January. A tremendously kind ride on Tomahawk Wood on his hurdle debut on heavy ground (after over 500 days off) at Newcastle in December saw that horse finish a fine second, and to top it all, what a terrific ride he gave Shades of Midnight to win at Kelso last week. 'Shady' is still a bit novicey as a jumper, but Callum kept his mount balanced throughout, pushed him along when outpaced 4 out, and came with a rattling run over the last 2, first to his whip on the run in to win on a horse over 2 miles who is crying out for staying trip.

And that's not to mention his last 4 rides for boss Venetia Williams - 2 wins, 2 thirds from 4 rides in the last 10 days.

The Whillans are ever so modest a family that I've probably caused slight embarrassment by this article but , like Lucky Dave, I'm full of admiration for this Borders' yard, the horses and team members.
And in Callum Whillans there lies a jockey held in high regard by his weighing room colleagues, whose current ability warrants a dramatic increase in riding opportunities.

And he still claims 5lb! 


Callum with his new best friend Snapping Turtle


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