Richard Johnson: Everything is right for Native River
In his day four preview of the Festival, the champion jockey discusses his four rides, including Native River in the Gold Cup.
1.30pm: The final day of the Festival gets under way with the Triumph Hurdle for juveniles.
In November we thought Gumball was one of the best juveniles around, but he’s been a bit disappointing on his last two starts on soft ground.
I do think he’s a better horse than we’ve seen – we’re hoping he can bounce back to form. He seems very well at home.
We’re trying him in a first time tongue strap just to help with his breathing a little on the soft ground. He’s classy and if he can come back to his best form, he’s got a good each-way chance.
Apple’s Shakira is going to be hard to beat. She’ll absolutely love the conditions.
2.10pm: The County Hurdle is always a cavalry charge and I’m riding Sternrubin . He hasn’t run since the autumn, but is in great form at home.
He’ll love the soft ground and the faster the race the better for him. It’s a very open race, there are 15 or 20 who would have a chance in it.
He’s in good order, comes here fresh and was placed in the race a couple of years ago.
2.50pm: I ride Crucial Role in the Albert Bartlett and it’s a case of the softer the ground the better for him. He wouldn’t have run if it wasn’t soft, so all the rain we’ve had has been perfect for him.
He’s won a handicap and is not far away on ratings. He’s had a lot of practice and stays really well. Henry Daly’s horses have been in great form this season.
3.30pm: I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time.
Native River is in great form at home and hopefully he’s the one to beat.
He’s very straightforward. You can ride him how you like and I just hope we can get into a nice rhythm either out in front, or just in behind.
His target all season has been the Gold Cup, whereas last year it was the Hennessy.
He had a tough campaign last year and actually ran a stormer to finish third in this race, especially as Colin Tizzard’s horses weren’t in the best of form at the time.
Stamina isn’t a problem for Native River. He’s won a Welsh National and was second in the four miler, so we know he’ll have no problem with the hill.
He comes into this year’s renewal as a fresh horse, but it’s a very open race.
It’s going to be a real test from three out in this race and if Might Bite wants to stop off for a pint in the Guinness Village again, I certainly won’t be stopping him!
He’s got some very good form, but this is going to be a brutal test and the ground suits us better than them
Of the others, Our Duke is an Irish National winner, so he’s a very good horse, although I’ve been told he doesn’t want it too soft.
I was also impressed with Definitly Red in the Cotswold Chase and he’ll definitely handle the ground.
I wouldn’t swap Native River for anything else, everything is right for him.
4.10pm: Sir Jack Yeats has some decent form and loves the ground, so he must have an each-way chance in the Foxhunters.
4.50pm: The Martin Pipe Hurdle is for conditional jockeys and Philip runs Poppy Kay .
If she can come back to the form when she won at Sandown, she would have a very good chance.
She ran no race at Newbury last time. This race should suit her and we’ve always thought she’d like this trip. Hopefully she’ll run a decent race off her mark.
5.30pm: Garde La Victoire is my last ride of the Festival.
He ran really well in France two starts ago, but disappointed in the Haldon Gold Cup and wasn’t quite right afterwards. He’s had a good break since.
He’s nearly a Grade One performer running in a handicap if he gets it all right. I’d like to think a fast run two miles will suit him and he’ll enjoy the ground.
He has a lot of weight to carry but does have some good form in the book.