'The National didn't make a huge difference to my life. I just like doing my job'
"You'd have to say he (Zarakandar) is the right age now, when you consider how most five-year-olds struggle after winning a Triumph."
Daryl Jacobs lands last year's Tirumph Hurdle on Zarakandar.
Daryl Jacob: Waiting can be agony – and its opposite. Daryl Jacob knows all about both sides of the coin. Last year, the Irish jockey’s face while waiting for the results of the closest photo-finish in Grand National history was a picture of desire and dread, the depths of which were obvious in his ecstatic and emotional response to Neptune Collonges eventually getting the verdict.
But Jacob’s current wait is no ordeal. As number two jockey to British champion trainer Paul Nicholls, he has got used to not making plans until Ruby Walsh has decided on his own. Since Walsh has the choice of Nicholls’s and Willie Mullins’s yards, that leaves him with a series of picks that can be as much of a headache as it is a privilege.
There isn’t a jockey alive who doesn’t get it wrong sometimes. No one’s judgment is infallible. Gordon Richards was famous for getting it wrong when faced with a choice of mounts.
Mick Kinane coughed up the Derby winner High Chaparral to Johnny Murtagh when preferring Hawk Wing, which was ironic considering how Kinane initially made his international reputation by being the ‘super-sub’ of choice.
So weirdly it can be argued that Jacob is in the more comfortable position right now. Being number two to Nicholls is better than most number one gigs anyway. Walsh has the headaches.
Neptune Collonges was a Walsh “spare” in the National. Whatever he discards will still go to the festival with real chances. Jacob knows this better than anyone.
One horse he will definitely ride is Zarkandar in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle. It is two years since Walsh discarded him in the Triumph and Jacob successfully stepped up, the final stamp of approval for the Nicholls gig.
But in the series of handicaps that permeate through the four days, there are untold potential pickings.
Yet it is Zarkandar that could prove the key. Walsh hasn’t hesitated to plump for Hurricane Fly, who managed to finish ahead of Nicholls’s in last year’s Champion Hurdle despite being off-the-boil. The Irish star is a different proposition this time, but then so too is Zarkandar.
Beaten just twice in nine career starts over flights, and one of those defeats came due to a fall, the classically-bred gelding was five last year, traditionally an age tough for comparative novices to compete against their seniors.
Jacob has ridden Zarkandar in two of his three starts this term and reckons another year on his back has made quite a difference. “He has bulked out, and you’d have to say he is the right age now, when you consider how most five-year-olds struggle after winning a Triumph,” he says.