Richard Johnson: Arkle has to be the obvious target for Lalor
The champion jockey weighs up what might be next for Kayley Woollacott's stable star, who 'wasn't evening blowing at the end' of his Arkle Trial win.
It was great to be at Cheltenham for the November meeting, which is always a fantastic three days of racing.
I had two nice winners and a number of the others ran well, so there’s plenty to look forward to.
Lalor is a very exciting horse
Kayley Woollacott and the owners couldn’t have wished for a better start with Lalor – he wasn’t even really blowing at the end. It was a big stage for his first run over fences, but he took it in his stride.
I was very pleased with his jumping. He was brave at the first, a bit careful at the second and then brushed through the top of the fourth. He learned as he went along.
From down the back straight he was very good, and very brave at the last two up the home straight.
It was really nice to see, he’s always been very good at home but that doesn’t always work out on the track.
Defi Du Seuil had been very good at home, but he’ll definitely learn from the experience.
I think a few of us thought Lalor was a spring horse because his best form has been around the time of year.
He showed that he doesn’t need a flat track. He’s a very balanced horse and the undulations at Cheltenham weren’t a problem.
It was a big day for everyone associated with the horse and hopefully they can just enjoy him now. It’s great that they have such an exciting horse for the future. Richard obviously had an awful lot to do with him in the early stages of his career.
Plenty will now ask about where he’ll go next, but it was more a case of seeing how he got on and then making a plan from there.
The way he did it the Arkle has to be the obvious target. Kayley can work back from there, whether he needs two or three more races.
It’s nice to get that run out of the way and great to hear that he’s in such good form this morning. I think other people will be scared of him now, so we can go where the race suits him.
Cheltenham on Sunday
Western Ryder ran well in the Greatwood Hurdle. It sometimes happens in races like this that there wasn’t much pace early on so it turned into a bit of a dash from two out.
A faster run race would definitely have helped him, although I’m sure the same is true for a number of others.
I’m not saying it cost him the race, but he’d have had a better chance. There will be other big competitive handicaps that will suit him a bit better this season.
We were delighted with Thyme Hill in the bumper. He’d won well at Worcester last month but this was a big step up.
It’s not a definite plan, but because he’s only a four-year-old I’d say there’s a fair chance he’ll stay in bumpers this season and go over hurdles next year.
It’s nice when they can step up a level so we were very pleased. You’d be surprised if it turned out to be a weak race.
Cheltenham on Saturday
Rock The Kasbah jumped and travelled really well to win the staying handicap chase. He’d come on from his first start at Chepstow and the form had been franked with The Young Master winning on Friday.
It was a good effort and that should put him in contention for some of those long distance chases throughout the season.
It was also great to see Coneygree back and put in such a solid performance.
The Grand National is the long term plan, so we’re thinking of giving him a sight of the fences in the Becher Chase next month. He’s a horse that prefers better ground so we’ll be hoping the rain stays away.
He’s got the right kind of profile for the Becher and hopefully the National, so that race will give us more of an idea for April.
The pace of the race was a bit too quick for West Approach and we never got into it, so I pulled him up early. He’ll go back up in trip now I’d have thought.
Baron Alco was a very good winner and it was great to see the Moore family win a big race at Cheltenham.
Westend Story was a bit disappointing in the handicap hurdle, but I wouldn’t write him off. He will come on for the run and he’s a horse that loves soft ground so conditions will be more in his favour when the rain comes.
Cedar Valley ran really well in the mares’ bumper to finish a good fifth. We were flat out the whole way but stayed on up the hill.
She’ll go over hurdles now and will be suited by softer ground and a step up in trip.
Great achievement for Harry
Harry Skelton had a great day at Uttoxeter on Saturday with five winners. I was lucky enough to have a couple of five timers earlier this season and they don’t happen very often.
They’ve had a fantastic campaign so far and it was a great achievement.
I’m banned for a few days this week, but I will be riding at Chepstow or Warwick on Wednesday, so hope to find some good rides there.
Annoyingly there isn’t much rain about this week so I just hope the ground is safe enough for Native River to take his chance at Haydock on Saturday.
You normally get very soft ground up there at this time of year, but the forecast doesn’t look good for that.
He’s not a horse that needs it to be very soft, just nice safe ground. He seemed in very good form the other day and I’m looking forward to getting back on him on the course.