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Richard Johnson blog: Sandown Saturday rides, Cheltenham

08 Mar | BY Richard Johnson | MIN READ TIME |
Richard Johnson blog: Sandown Saturday rides, Cheltenham

The champion jockey previews his Saturday at Sandown, and says he's pleased with how the ground is shaping up for his Tuesday rides at Cheltenham Festival.

It’s been a very quiet week as I’ve been trying to recover from my fall at Newbury on Saturday.

To be honest, I’ve probably been a bit over cautious, but next week is the most important week of the year and I didn’t want to take any chances.

I rode out at Olly Murphy’s on Thursday and schooled Thomas Darby  who are both on track for the Supreme and Ballymore respectively. They both felt really well and we were all happy.

Looking ahead to Cheltenham

Obviously Native River  is the biggest one for me in Friday’s Gold Cup and I’m very happy that Cheltenham have had the rain they’ve had with more to come.

Conditions will hopefully be ideal for him and I’m really looking forward to getting back on him.

Lalor  in the Arkle is my big ride on the Tuesday. I know a lot of people are worrying about the ground for him, but the Arkle is the first chase on the first day so the ground will be fresh, not like it was at Sandown in December.

It was soft when he won at Aintree last year, he just doesn’t want extremes and I’d be very surprised if the conditions are really bad.

Springtown Lake  should go for the Close Brothers and he’ll enjoy the cut in the ground. I think he fits the bill well for that race and he should go there with a live chance.

Samburu Shujaa  is one I’m looking forward to in the Pertemps. He’s a novice and he’s still going the right way. He’s won both his starts over three miles and will like the ground.

I’ll be on Stoney Mountain  for Henry Daly in the Albert Bartlett on Friday. He’s quite a big price, but he’s got the right kind of attitude for the race.

He stays very well and loves soft ground, which he hasn’t had all year.

Sandown on Saturday

It’s good to be back riding again after a week away from the track.

First up is Garrettstown  for Olly in the EBF Final (13:50). He won a bumper at Chepstow last year and we’ve always thought plenty of him.

He been running well this season, my only reservation is if the ground is really bad. He’s a very big horse and doesn’t mind soft ground, but if it’s heavy it might be hard for him. I still think he goes there with a very decent chance.

I don’t know an awful lot about Briery Express  who I’m on for Noel Williams in the Listed mares’ bumper (15:00). Noel has done very well with her and it’s a family that Henry Daly knows a lot.

They tend to stay very well and I’m sure stamina is going to be the order of the day.

My final ride of the weekend is Duke Des Champs  in the 2m4f handicap chase (16:45).

He was a very talented horse a couple of years ago, but had some injuries. He won’t mind the ground and I hope Sandown’s fences bring out the best in him. He jumps and stays very well.

I don’t have a ride in the Imperial Cup and although it’s a big ask on his reappearance, Kim Bailey’s First Flow could be interesting.

With Call Me Lord staying in it means he gets to run off a reasonable weight and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run a very big race, as he was a good novice last season.

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Richard Johnson

Four-time champion jump jockey who is second on the all-time list for most National Hunt winners in the UK.

Richard Johnson

Four-time champion jump jockey who is second on the all-time list for most National Hunt winners in the UK.