Richard Johnson: La Bague Au Roi is best mare I've ever ridden
The champion jockey previews all of his weekend rides at Sandown on Saturday and Leopardstown on Sunday, and pays tribute to an old friend.
The big chill means it has been a strange week to be a jockey. I rode out for Henry Daly on Tuesday and before I’d even got a couple of miles into my drive to Lingfield I was told it was off.
It was obviously disappointing and I certainly didn’t think we would have four days off this week! Instead I have spent it with the family and enjoyed doing a couple of school runs, which is always nice.
I also had a rare chance to visit our horses at home. There have been months where I haven’t even seen them because it’s too dark when I leave for work and too dark when I get home, so it was nice to see them all.
Sandown on Saturday
Hopefully Sandown gets the green light on Saturday as I have four nice rides there, starting with Gino Trail (13:15) for Kerry Lee.
He hasn’t been seen for almost a year but was really consistent in last season and the melting snow should leave some nice cut in the ground, which he will appreciate.
It’s his first run of the season and he carries a big weight, but he will have done plenty of work at home.
He’s won over course and distance before so he should go well.
My second ride of the day is Lostintranslation (14:25) for Colin Tizzard in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and it’s a great ride to pick up.
It’s obviously a very competitive Grade 1 with a some very talented horses in the mix, including Defi Du Seuil, and there was very little between them on their run at Cheltenham last month.
I was really impressed with the way Lostintranslation stayed on up the hill to get past Defi Du Seuil and that attitude will certainly help on Saturday.
His form behind La Bague Au Roi from earlier in the season is very strong so he must have a good chance.
I then ride Folsom Blue (3.00pm) in the handicap hurdle for Gordon Elliott.
He will obviously be putting a lot of his focus on Leopardstown this weekend, but he doesn’t send them to England just for fun.
I think he has a decent chance and should run well. I rode him in a hurdle at Haydock earlier in the season and he didn’t run too badly in the Welsh National last time.
It’s always a pleasure to take the ride of Kayf Adventure (15:35) as I am down as jockey and breeder!
Conditions haven’t really been in his favour this year as he really wants soft ground.
Hopefully the melting snow will give him a chance and it is obviously extra special to win on a horse that you have bred.
La Bague Au Roi at Leopardstown
I am really looking forward to my trip to Leopardstown to ride La Bague Au Roi (15:00) in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase for Warren Greatrex.
She travelled over on Thursday. She would usually have gone over on the Friday but we didn’t want to take any chances with the weather.
I wouldn’t swap her for the world. This is the ideal trip for her and the flat track will suit perfectly. I’ve ridden some very good mares over the years like La Landiere, but I’d have to say she’s probably the best mare I’ve ridden.
Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work is obviously a strong rival but I think this flat track will suit.
We’ll think about futures plans after the race, but this is a big race in its own right and it has been the plan since Kempton.
It’s a really great weekend of action in Ireland this week and I can’t wait to watch Apple’s Jade in the Irish Champion Hurdle (13:25) on Saturday.
She’s a lovely filly with an amazing attitude and is just brilliant at what she does.
I know this is her first time over two miles for a while, but she isn’t short of pace. She has it all and I can see her galloping off from the front and going all the way.
Sunday’s Irish Gold Cup (15:35) also looks a cracker and for me Road To Respect will take all the beating.
He’s won at the track before and a win here would push him into the Gold Cup picture. I will be keeping a close eye on the race.
It was really sad to hear of ATR favourite Madge’s passing earlier this week. She had built up a great relationship with Matt Chapman and I know he was a huge fan.
Frankie Dettori and I sent her a video message just before Christmas as we knew she hadn’t been well. My grandmother is 97 herself and it’s an amazing age to get to.
She clearly touched a lot of people and it was great to see the relationship she built and the amount of well-wishers she had from within racing.
A lot of credit has to go to Matt. He can be a bit of a Marmite character for some but there is no denying how big his heart is.
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