Richard Johnson: It's the one you dream about winning
The champion jockey previews the biggest race of the year before running through his rides on day three of the Grand National Festival.
Richard Johnson’s Grand National 1-2-3-4
- Anibale Fly
- Shantou Flyer
- Perfect Candidate
I’m obviously disappointed not to be riding in the Randox Health Grand National this year, but I’ve been round there lots of times in the past and have gone close twice.
It’s the world’s most famous horse race and is always a massive part of the season.
It’s the people’s race. If you ever bump into someone on the street and say you’re a jockey, they always bring up the Grand National.
Growing up as a child it’s a race you dream about winning.
It’s going to be soft ground and it will be a real test. There will be certain horses that will really enjoy it and some that will struggle.
My first boss, David Nicholson, used to say that you should go hunting round for the first circuit and then start to race on the second.
I think plenty of jockeys will be doing that on Saturday. You need to conserve your horse’s energy, let it find its feet early and get into a rhythm.
The jockeys will be waiting until after the Canal Turn second time round before really starting to ride their race.
It’s always wide open, but the one who I think could have a class edge is Anibale Fly .
If you take the form literally from the Gold Cup, especially after Might Bite on Thursday, he will go very close.
I know he’s got a lot of weight, but he’s a class horse, has form in big fields and conditions won’t be a problem.
He’s got the best form in the race and I’m sure Barry Geraghty is really looking forward to it.
Anibale Fly would be the one I’d like to ride if I had the choice of any of them.
Blaklion is hard to knock. He absolutely loves it round here and ran a great race to finish fourth last year.
Although he has more weight to carry, I can’t tell you how important course form is over the National fences.
He was very impressive in the Becher Chase in December and has had a wind operation since finishing second in the trial at Haydock in February.
At a bigger price, I can see Shantou Flyer running a nice race.
He’s been ultra-consistent this season and ran really well to be second in the Ultima at Cheltenham last month.
It would be a great story if he was to win with 17-year-old James Bowen in the saddle. James has had a brilliant season and is a fantastic talent.
Ground conditions won’t worry Shantou Flyer either, so he looks to have a solid each-way chance.
My final selection is a huge price, but Perfect Candidate stays forever and will love the ground.
He won well at Cheltenham earlier in the season and 11-year-olds have a good record in the race.
My rides on Grand National day
My first ride of the day is Louis’ Vac Pouch in the opening handicap hurdle (1.45pm).
Unfortunately, the ground has probably gone against him a little bit, but he won well over course and distance in November.
If he can run to the same level as that, then he’d have a great chance here, but he was disappointing in the Pertemps at Cheltenham.
It’s going to be a big task for him under top weight in these conditions.
Western Ryder runs in the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (2.25pm) and we’re a bit disappointed they’ve had so much rain.
He was unlucky in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle when he got hampered two out.
The step up to two and a half miles is ideal and hopefully he comes here with a decent chance of picking up some prize money.
Warren’s Greatrex horses are running well so fingers crossed.
My best chance of a winner on Saturday is definitely Thomas Patrick in the Betway Handicap Chase (3.40pm).
Unlike my other two rides, the more rain that falls the better his chance.
He absolutely loves soft ground and he was very good at Newbury last month.
Tom Lacey’s horses have been in flying form recently and we’re hoping that this horse is still ahead of his mark.
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