Richard Johnson: Al Dancer will surely go close in the Supreme
The champion jockey reviews his weekend rides at Ascot, and weighs up the stand-out performers ahead of next month's Cheltenham Festival.
It was a bit of a disappointing weekend in truth, with a number of my rides not running as we’d hoped.
Philip Hobbs' horses in particular didn’t fire and whether it was due to the vaccinations they’d had the week before I’m not sure, but several didn’t give their true running, which was obviously very frustrating.
Ascot on Saturday
Deise Aba clearly didn’t run up to the same level of form as at Chepstow. He wasn’t going from a long way out and he’s a far better horse than he showed on Saturday.
I won’t be giving up on him yet and hopefully he puts in a better performance when we next see him.
Of all my rides over the weekend, Now McGinty was probably the one I thought ran most encouragingly.
He kept on really well behind the winner and pulled well clear of the third horse which is always an encouraging sign.
His trainer Stuart Edmunds mentioned the Midlands National at Uttoxeter, which would suit as he would like a bit of softer ground and stays really well too.
It’s obviously a shame Thomas Patrick hasn’t been able to show the form of last season so far this year, but his run in the Denman Chase was more encouraging, so let’s hope that’s a step in the right direction.
The winner Clan Des Obeaux was impressive and while he was expected to win, he did it in a pretty taking way. He’s clearly in very good form and is definitely a contender for the Gold Cup in March.
He’s now the one this side of the sea that you’d be most worried about in terms of Cheltenham. He’s clearly improving, having done nothing wrong so far, and looks to be coming to the boil at the right time.
Whichever way you look at it, the Gold Cup is shaping up to be a fantastic race, with a number of very solid contenders, but I’m still very happy with Native River and I can’t wait to get back on him next month.
In the big handicap at Ascot, it was hard not to be impressed by Al Dancer.
It’s always a very good experience for these younger horses to run in these competitive handicaps in the lead-up to a race like the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. It really educates them and sets them up nicely for the higher grade of race.
Al Dancer looks a very progressive novice and you’d be amazed if he wasn’t there or thereabouts in the Supreme at Cheltenham.
Cyrname was another very taking winner and alongside the likes of Clan Des Obeaux, Paul Nicholls looks to have a very good crop of staying chasers.
He just keeps improving and to win a Grade 1 by 17 lengths against some very talented horses shows he’s a horse on the upgrade.
Connections seem to want to keep him right-handed, but with the likes of Kempton, Sandown and Ascot all being right-handed tracks, there are plenty of big prizes on offer.
Punchestown is another potential option too, but wherever he goes next he’s going to be very tough to beat.