Richard Johnson: Native River my best ride of the week
The champion jockey previews every race from the third day of the Festival, including the Gold Cup, where he rides last year's winner Native River.
I haven’t got a ride in the opening Triumph Hurdle, but based on his win at the Dublin Racing Festival, Sir Erec is very much the one to beat.
I was worried he might not handle soft ground, however I’m told it was wanted he wanted on the Flat and it looks as if it will take a very good one to beat him, especially with Joseph O’Brien getting a winner on the board on Wednesday.
My first ride of the day is Crooks Peak in the County Hurdle. It’s a wide open handicap and a number look to have good chances, but my horse is definitely going the right way having won his last three.
I’m slightly concerned about the ground, as I’m not sure if he’ll handle the slower surface. He’s in good form, though, and I’m hopeful he’ll go well.
Western Ryder is very consistent and Harry Teal takes off five pounds which can only help his chances.
I’m on Stoney Mountain in the Albert Bartlett and I think he’s got a great each-way chance. The more rain, the better for him, as he loves soft ground and is a thorough stayer.
The race is renowned for being a real slog, which should play to my horse’s strengths and hopefully he can be there at the finish.
He’s been very consistent this season and rarely runs a bad race, so I’m hopeful of a good performance.
Native River is my best ride of the week and the rain we’ve had over the past 10 days or so is obviously a big bonus for us.
The ground has definitely ridden on the slow side this week and his season has been planned around this race.
Conditions are most definitely in his favour and I’d be absolutely gutted if he wasn’t in the first three. I really don’t see why he won’t be, so for that reason I wouldn’t swap him for anything else in the race.
Bellshill is probably the one I’m most worried about. If the vibes from Ireland are anything to go by, he has a good chance.
Presenting Percy is the unknown quality, it’s all guesswork with and he’s obviously a danger because we don’t know how good he is.
Clan Des Obeaux is one of the most improved horses in training, but I’d like to think on a stiffer track, we’d have his measure.
Like in the Gold Cup, the Foxhunters for amateur jockeys is going to be a real test of stamina.
Even though he’s 11-years-old, I think Hazel Hill is pretty unexposed. He won what looked a very hot hunter chase at Warwick last time and he’s a bit of unknown quality coming from Philip Rowley’s yard.
He produces a lot of good point-to-point horses and his would be the one for me.
Kerry Lee’s Gino Trail is my final ride of the meeting. He was second in the race last year and when I rode him at Sandown in February he felt very well.
I don’t think he’s particularly well-handicapped, but he’s very consistent and he loves soft ground. I think he’s got an each-way chance.
Paul Nicholls seems very keen on Magic Saint, who he thinks is a Graded horse running in a handicap. If he’s right, he’ll be the one we all have to beat.
The final race of the Festival looks another very competitive race, but if the betting is anything to go by Dallas Des Pictons is the one.
Gordon Elliott targets this race, having worked under Martin Pipe, and he looks to have a good chance of winning it for the third year in a row.
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