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Codd set to relive dream

IT goes without saying that every jockey's dream is to ride a winner at Cheltenham.

Jamie Codd is one of Ireland's leading amateur riders and he has lived the dream twice, firstly on Character Building in 2009 and again in 2011 on Junior for David Pipe. Both occasions were in the Kim Muir.

Few will ever forget his composure to take a pull on Character Building after jumping the last before going on to win in what was the ultimate 'balls of steel' ride. "Character Building was a 25/1 shot on the day I think. There wasn't as much pressure riding him as there was Junior, who was well backed, very well backed. It certainly makes it easier riding there now and easier to enjoy once you do break the duck," Codd told the Herald.

For yet another season the Wexford native is embroiled in a war with Derek O'Connor to be champion point-to-point rider, but Cheltenham acts as a week-long distraction from that.

There was no amateur race today, so it will be tonight that the two-time Festival-winning jockey will fly over after scanning through the point-to-point entries and sorting out his agenda for the coming weekend.

Bug

This was a trip Codd didn't make last year through injury, but in 2009 and 2011 he caught the bug of riding a winner at Cheltenham and this week he has three good chances to catch it once again. "I had two rides here in 2011 for Mr Pipe and riding at the big festivals for a trainer of that calibre is where you want to be at."

Back In Focus is a big Irish hope for tomorrow's opening National Hunt Chase, also known simply as 'The Four-Miler', but Codd is hopeful that his mount Buddy Bolero can give him plenty to think about. "I suppose Back In Focus has a bit of class and there's a couple of other horses in the race, but I think AP (McCoy) is pretty keen on his chances and Mr Pipe is happy with him so, yeah, I'm looking forward to it."

Buddy Bolero is a winner of his last three, while Codd's mount in the Kim Muir is two from his last three and is also prominent in the bookmakers' lists.

"I ride a horse in the Kim Muir called Chartreux for Tom George. He has a similar profile to Buddy Bolero in that he has won a couple of handicaps and he's also in off a nice weight which all helps."

Codd described riding a Cheltenham winner as "nearly unexplainable, but a fantastic feeling", and on Friday he teams up with trainer Gordon Elliott in the Foxhunters.

"I ride Backstage, for Gordon, who has been a wonderful horse for my career but he is 11 now coming back from injury. I won on him in a point-to-point the week before last and he will have definitely come on for that, but I think he'll come on for Cheltenham as well and I think Gordon thinks the same. If he was to be in the first four or five I would be delighted with him."

Elliott is just one of the many trainers that Codd will team up with throughout the point-to-point season, a season that has been going well so far and included 10 winners from the last four meetings. At the moment, he leads O'Connor in an enthralling race to be crowned champion of that sphere for the first time, but it has been a move that was a successful one.

"I worked in Willie Mullins' and was lucky enough to ride a lot of nice bumper winners there and ride with and learn a lot from top jockeys like Ruby and James Nash, who was there at that time also. But when things started to dry up at Willie's, I decided to concentrate more on the point-to-points and they have been very good to me."

When asked if another Cheltenham winner or the point-to-point championship would be a bigger priority, he quipped: "Both would do!" There's every chance he might get both too.


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