Richard Johnson: I’m really looking forward to Rock The Kasbah
The National Hunt jockey and Betway ambassador reveals in his exclusive column how pleased he was when he schooled the horse on Wednesday
It’s never easy to pick when there are two big meetings on a Saturday and you certainly shouldn’t read anything into the fact that I’m not riding Fingal Bay at Haydock.
He’s in great form at home and will love the ground up there. His three runs this season have been all very good and he deserves to get his head in front.
Of course I would have loved to ride Fingal, but I’ve got three very good rides at Ascot and, hopefully, I can hit the target.
First up is Rock The Kasbah (2.25pm) in the handicap hurdle. This is a very competitive race, but I’m looking forward to getting back on him.
Tom [O’Brien] rode him at Haydock last time when he was very good.
Prior to that, he ran really well at Chepstow first time out and I was very pleased with him when I schooled him on Wednesday morning.
He’s definitely an improving horse. Ascot should suit him well, he’ll stay the trip and a true run race will help.
Although he’s probably a staying chaser in the making, I’d hope there’s more to come over hurdles. He went up 8lb for his last win and that’s probably a fair assessment.
Royal Regatta (3.35pm) has been a little in and out. He was back on top form last time - whether it was the blinkers or the tongue strap, we’re not sure.
It was soft enough that day, so the ground shouldn’t be a problem.
He’s obviously risen in the handicap, but this over the same course and distance. If he reproduces his form from last time, he’d have to go well. I just hope he’s on a going day.
My final ride is on Duke Des Champs (4.10pm). He just got beat over course and distance last month when he was a little awkward at the second last.
He’s improved in all three of his runs over hurdles and last time was the best he’s travelled and jumped throughout a race.
He was a very raw horse earlier in the season and it’s been a bit of a learning curve for him. He’s definitely going the right way and I hope there’s more to come.
They’re three very good rides, but Rock The Kasbah is the one I’m really looking forward to. The race should suit him.
I also think Fingal Bay has a very big chance at Haydock.
I head to Fontwell on Sunday for just the one ride on Mr McGregor (3.45pm). I’ve never ridden him but have ridden against him plenty of times.
Although he’s yet to win, he should stay and handle the ground which is what you’ll need to do in the conditions.
I’d have thought that this race is nearly as important for the connections of Sire De Grugy as the Betway Champion Chase at Cheltenham. He definitely seems more like the horse of two years ago this season than he was 12 months ago.
This will be a proper test for Un De Sceaux after tipping up last time. If he puts in a solid round of jumping, he’s going to be very hard to beat, but he’s not going to have it all his own way.
It’s a very interesting race to watch and we’ll all be much wiser afterwards.
Hereford is my local track, and where I rode my first winner, so I’m obviously delighted that they’re going to be racing there again soon.
I know it’s been missed by a lot of trainers - for a smaller track, it’s very fair.
Arc must have realised that it’s good for their business to re-open and fair play to them for getting the show back on the road. It’s great news.