Richard Johnson: I can’t wait to ride Native River again
The champion jockey previews his weekend rides, including the Denman Chase at Newbury.
It’s been a slightly frustrating week with racing being off for a few days, but it was nice to get back in the swing of things with a winner on Thursday for Jo Davis with Marmont.
I was very happy with Western Ryder in the Sidney Banks, it was a much more pleasing run than in the Tolworth.
The Ballymore at Cheltenham looks his most likely target. The spring ground should suit him and I’d be hopeful of a good run.
It’s very exciting to be back on Native River in the Denman Chase (2.25pm). He’s one of the best horses I’ve ridden and I can’t wait to ride him again.
The Tizzards have been very happy with his work at home, with this race always being the target.
He won this last year which set him up nicely for Cheltenham and that’s the aim again.
The race is perfectly timed for the Gold Cup as it will give him plenty of time to recover, but at the same time he’s bound to come on from it which should see him in great form at the Festival.
Even though there are just three horses, they are all classy in their own right so he will need to be close to his best.
If he can reproduce the form of last year, he must have a fantastic chance and hopefully the race will leave him cherry-ripe for the Gold Cup.
Rest of my rides at Newbury on Saturday
I kick-off my the rest of my rides on Saturday with Hardness in the novices’ hurdle (1.15pm).
He’s been a little bit disappointing so far but he’s still learning and if he can transfer his work from home to the course, he’d have a small each-way chance.
I’m then on King Uther in the handicap hurdle (1.50pm) for Chris Gordon.
He actually beat me at Warwick last time where he showed a good attitude to stick it out at the end in very testing conditions.
Conditions should be in his favour on Saturday, so if he can reproduce the form of his Warwick win, he’ll definitely be in the mix.
I ride Poppy Kay in the Betfair Hurdle (3.35pm) which as usual looks incredibly competitive.
She has form at the track and the race should be run at a strong gallop which will really suit her.
She stays further than the 2m trip, which if the ground gets on the testing side will be very important.
She’s still on the upgrade and I don’t see any reason why she doesn’t go there with a strong each-way chance.
Duke Des Champs (4.10pm) is a horse we thought a lot of before he missed the whole of last season.
He ran nicely on his seasonal reappearance at Newbury, so hopefully he will come on for that run and can get himself involved.
My final ride of the day is Brewin'Upastorm in the bumper (4.40pm) for Olly Murphy.
Olly tends to do well with these types and this horse is another who looks on the upgrade based on his impressive performance at Hereford last time.
It’s a very hot bumper, though, with almost all of the runners having won previously.
My ride look progressive and hopefully he can continue the form he showed last time.
Game Spirit Chase
It'll be interesting to see what sort of form Altior is in after his lay-off.
Nicky Henderson would only run him if he was 100% sure he was ready to go, but he will have to be on his game against a race-fit Poliltologue.
Paul Nicholls’ horse has been very impressive this year, but Altior is so classy and is entitled to be favourite on last year’s form.
Exeter on Sunday
Samburu Shujaa is my opening ride on Sunday in the novices’ hurdle (2.00pm).
He ran a nice ran at Taunton last month in which the runner-up has come out and won, so the form looks pretty strong.
I’d be hopeful he’d come on from that and he should go there with a solid chance.
I ride Lovenormoney for Warren Greatrex in the handicap hurdle (3.05pm).
He didn’t quite run up to his previous form at Cheltenham last time, but I don’t think the track really suited him.
I’d be hopeful that the more testing ground and a stiffer track will see him to better effect.
Verni is my next ride for Philip Hobbs in the novices’ chase (4.40pm).
He’s schooled nicely since his seasonal reappearance at Haydock. He should come on from that and hopefully he can run well in what looks a pretty competitive race.
I finish Sunday with Gaucho Gil in the bumper (5.10pm).
He’s a nice young horse but this will be his first appearance on a racecourse.
He’s been very straightforward at home, so hopefully he is able to transfer that to the track.