Richard Johnson: La Bague Au Roi is the one to beat at Aintree
The champion jockey previews every race of the first day at Aintree, including his rides in the opening novices' chase and the mares' bumper.
There are three brilliant days of racing at Aintree to look forward to this week.
Much like Cheltenham, it’s a chance to see some of the best horses, but there’s also slightly less pressure at Aintree than at the Festival.
Not all horses cope with Cheltenham, so Aintree offers them another chance.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a few nice winners in recent seasons thanks to the likes Lalor, Thomas Patrick and Native River.
Of course it was disappointing not to have a winner at Cheltenham, but Aintree will hopefully suit a few of my runners a bit better.
I’ve only got the two rides on the opening day but La Bague Au Roi holds a really strong chance in the opening novices’ chase.
This has been the target ever since Leopardstown and with the rain coming conditions look perfect.
You never know what ground you’re going to get or if another horse will meet a setback so this race seemed the best option following the news that Defi Du Seuil would miss it.
It’s a small but competitive field with the likes of Kalashnikov, Glen Forsa and Bags Groove all having some decent form.
It was a big decision to miss Cheltenham but we just felt this track would suit her better and, if the ratings are right, she should be the one they all have to beat.
I’ve no ride in the juvenile hurdle but it looks a match between Pentland Hills and Band Of Outlaws .
Both won at last month’s Festival and it’s great to see the Triumph Hurdle winner taking on the Fred Winter winner.
With just two runs under his belt you have to think Pentland Hills will come on again and improve for those runs.
He won the Triumph Hurdle nicely despite an early blunder and will take all the beating again.
The Betway Bowl is a small but competitive field and it will be interesting to see how the Gold Cup horses fare.
Conditions look sure to suit Clan Des Obeaux better than they did at Cheltenham, but he would have had a hard race there.
I wouldn’t be surprised to Kemboy run well. He unseated his rider early on which could actually work in his favour.
He will be a lot fresher than some others in the field and that could prove the difference.
Buveur D’Air looks set to go off a short price in the Betway Aintree Hurdle but he didn’t appear to be going with all that much zest at Cheltenham when falling. I certainly wouldn’t want to be taking a short price about him.
Both Melon and Faugheen ran really well at Cheltenham. It was particularly nice to see Faugheen showing he still has the ability to compete at this level when third in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
That was a good run and I think this trip will suit him even better.
I haven’t looked much into the Foxhunters, but I’ve ridden Kruzhlinin plenty of times in the past and it would be nice to see him run a big race for Gordon Elliott.
He has been in great form in Irish point-to-points over the past few months.
This is a typically competitive Aintree handicap where it’s hard to rule many out.
I hear there has been a lot of money for the Azzerti over the past week or so and the Skelton yard is in fine form at the moment.
My second and final ride of the day is Harry Fry’s Whitehotchillifili in the mares’ bumper.
She finished fourth last time out at Sandown behind stablemate Misty Whisky in ground that was very testing.
It’s a track that doesn’t suit some horses so hopefully we can reverse that form with both mares going head-to-head again.
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