Richard Johnson: It’ll be tough for Blaklion to win the National
In his exclusive column, the champion jockey reflects on his Saturday rides at Chepstow, as well as the rest of the weekend's big races.
The weather played havoc with the racing on Sunday, which meant it was sledging with the family for me rather than riding at Huntingdon.
It was a fun day and the kids had a whale of a time.
Chepstow on Saturday
It was nice to get a winner on Saturday. Lovenormoney was good in the handicap hurdle. Heavy ground suits him so conditions were ideal.
Warren’s [Greatrex] are in good form so it was pleasing to get another winner for the yard.
I suppose the biggest disappointment was Ice Cool Champs in the novices’ handicap chase.
He’d jumped nicely on his first run over fences, but he was labouring halfway down the back straight.
We know he’s not the fastest horse in the world, but this definitely wasn’t his true running.
I thought he was my best chance of a winner on the day, so we’ll give him all the checks back at home.
The ground was sticky and hard work at Chepstow and a few of mine just didn’t cope with it.
Not Alfie Spinner, though, who ran really well in the Grand National Trial and loved the ground. I think the handicapper could be a bit kinder to him as a 12-year-old.
That being said, he could be one for a veterans’ race. When conditions are right for him I’m sure he’ll go well again.
Speaking of the Grand National, Blaklion was hugely impressive in the Becher Chase.
He had every right to be a strong favourite on form and he got the job done really well.
The worry is that the handicapper is now going to have his say and he’ll be carrying a big weight in the National.
He’s a very good horse indeed, but it’s going to be tough to win it off 160 plus, which I’m sure he’ll go up to now.
Many Clouds did show that it’s possible, though.
I must admit that I underestimated Politologue before the Tingle Creek, I thought he’d come up short.
He’s a real improver and Paul Nicholls has done a great job with him. He’s still a relatively young horse and hasn’t reached his best yet.
I thought Fox Norton was going to come by him and go up the hill, but there was no fluke about it. He galloped them into the ground.
Of course it would have been nice to see Douvan to get a better handle on the form, but you can only beat who is put in front of you.
It’s easy to say so now, but it was surprising that Sizing John wasn’t favourite for the John Durkan on Sunday.
The Gold Cup can often leave its mark on a horse, but don’t forget that he also won the Punchestown Gold Cup after that.
Jessica Harrington has done a great job with him. To beat Djakadam first time up is not easy. Sizing John is definitely the one to beat in the Gold Cup.
Hilly Way Chase
Un De Sceaux is a horse that loves soft ground. When he gets those conditions he’s very, very good.
We’ve sometimes seen him disappoint slightly on quicker ground in the spring.
He looks like a horse that wants more than two miles on good ground. Everyone wants to see these good horses back and running well.
I have to mention some great pieces of riding over the past week or so.
Jack Kennedy, Shane Shortall and Tony Kelly all produced fantastic sits and if there was an award I would just give it to Tony.
He did unbelievably well to still win the race after such a bad mistake two out where he lost his irons.
Well done to him and the other two lads.