Richard Johnson: 17.15 is my best chance on Aintree day one
The champion jockey provides his thoughts on all seven races on the opening day of the Grand National Festival.
Ground certain to be testing
The Grand National meeting at Aintree is always one of the highlights of the season and I really enjoy heading up to Liverpool for the three days.
They put up some fantastic prize money and the atmosphere is really fun. Let’s just hope the weather doesn’t dampen people’s spirits.
I know they’re saying it’s soft ground, but Aintree normally rides worse than it walks because of the black soil. I won’t be surprised if it’s nearly heavy.
The advantage they have, though, is that they haven’t raced since early December so there will be a good covering of grass.
Most courses have been racing all winter so they lose the grass and you’re often running on mud instead.
Regardless, this week you’re still going to want a horse that handles soft ground. It’s very frustrating for people who have got good ground horses, but on the other hand the soft-ground horses are loving it.
I’ve got three rides on the opening day, but here are my thoughts on all of the races…
No ride for me in the first and to be honest I was a little surprised to see Finian’s Oscar so prominent in the betting. He’d need to bounce back to the form from Aintree last year to win this.
I thought Brain Power would struggle with his jumping at Cheltenham, but he was good. This track will probably suit him better and he’s the one to beat.
I’m on Gumball in the juvenile hurdle and fortunately for him he is running in the first race of the meeting on the hurdles track when the ground is going to be at its best.
If I could guarantee he was going to return to his early-season form, I could see him running a massive race, but there has to be a big question mark.
The dangers look to be Nicky Henderson’s Apple’s Shakira and We Have A Dream .
Although Apple’s Shakira was a little bit disappointing at Cheltenham, she still beat all the English horses.
We just won’t know if that race took too much out of her. It’s sometimes not a problem for older horses, but it’s not easy for juveniles to run at two or three festivals, especially when the ground is testing.
We Have a Dream comes here a fresh horse and that may just tip the balance in his favour.
I don’t have a ride in the Betway Bowl, but Might Bite is the clear form horse in the race and I’d obviously like to see him run well, having beaten him in the Gold Cup on Native River.
If he’s got over Cheltenham and puts in a performance like he did in the King George or last month, then he’ll be very hard to beat.
Bristol De Mai is probably the biggest danger. He loves a flat track and the more rain the better for him. Some horses just don’t handle undulating courses and he seems to be one of them.
It’s nice to pick up a spare ride in the Betway Aintree Hurdle, although on all known form the French-trained Izzo has plenty to find.
That being said, he was second to a future Grade 1 winner in October and he’ll definitely handle the conditions.
I can see The New One running a big race. He was a bit disappointing in the Stayers’ Hurdle, but this is his ideal trip.
My Tent Or Yours should also run well. He seems to have more stamina now than he did earlier in his career.
Supasundae will surely try to make this a real test, but he looks pretty short even though he ran well in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
I’m not going to be too much help with the Foxhunters as this is a race for amateur jockeys.
My only advice would be to try to find a jockey that knows their way around the course and has some experience of these unique fences.
Jamie Codd is on Grand Vision for Colin Tizzard and he could run a big race.
I don’t have a ride in the Red Rum Handicap, but I can see Gino Trail running well despite carrying top weight.
He’s been very consistent this season and is a horse that jumps, gallops and stays. He’ll also have no problem with the soft ground.
It’s not an easy race to make all, but he’s a good yardstick and was an excellent second in the Grand Annual last time.
He’s the one in the field that you can almost guarantee will be there or thereabouts.
My final ride of the day is Cedar Valley in the mares’ bumper and she would be my best chance of a winner.
She’s a nice mare and has always worked well at home. We were really pleased with her at Taunton where she stayed on strongly all the way to the line. She would have learned plenty from that.
It’s going to be a hot race, but we don’t know how good she is and I wouldn’t put anyone off her. She’s in very good order at home.
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