Richard Johnson: It's a shame I can't ride Dame Rose
The champion jockey assesses the four-year-old's chances in the Challow Hurdle, and talks up Might Bite's Gold Cup hopes.
As you know, I’m unable to ride for the next few days, but here are my thoughts on some of the ones I would have been riding, as well as the action over the Christmas period.
Newbury on Saturday
If Newbury is on, Vieux Lille is set to line up in the Mandarin Handicap Chase (2.25pm).
He handles very soft ground really well and is an out-and-out stayer, so conditions will be perfect for him.
He’s only had the one start so far this season, at Exeter, and he just got tired on his reappearance. You’d like to think he’d go there with a decent chance in an open race.
The big race of the day is the Grade One Challow Hurdle (3.00pm), and it’s a shame I can’t ride Dame Rose.
I was very taken with her performance and attitude at Newbury last time.
Although she’s stepping up in trip, it shouldn’t be a problem. Most bumper horses tend to enjoy further than two miles over hurdles, and it’s an advantage that she has form on very soft ground.
It’s another notch up the ladder for her, but the mares’ allowance will definitely help her and she looks to have solid claims.
I thought the world of Duke Des Champs two years ago but he's suffered from injury since, so it’s nice to get him back on the track in the novices’ handicap chase (3.35pm).
He could be very good, but he’s been off for such a long time that he’s bound to improve for this run.
He’s schooled nicely at home and we just hope that he can put up a good performance, before making a plan from there.
Uttoxeter on Sunday
After all the rain and snow we’ve had over the past week or so, you need horses that can handle really bad ground. That’s exactly what it will be at Uttoxeter on Sunday.
Back To The Thatch ran really well at Haydock a few weeks ago. He’s a stayer, but the drop back in trip won’t matter when conditions are this testing in the novices’ handicap chase (2.25pm).
It looks the ideal race for him and if he reproduces his form from Haydock, he should go very close.
Cheltenham on New Year’s Day
It’s difficult to know who is running at Cheltenham at this stage, but Philip Hobbs' Springtown Lake is entered in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (12.15pm).
He ran a good race behind On The Blind Side at Sandown last time. The winner was very impressive, but we pulled a long way clear of the rest.
He’s an improving horse, and based on that performance he’d go there with a great chance.
Gold Cup picture
Might Bite went into the King George as the horse with the right profile and he came out on top. He has had his quirks in the past, but he looked very professional on Boxing Day and is definitely an improver.
He’s the one in England that everyone is trying to get to and must have a very good chance in the Gold Cup, especially with Sizing John getting beaten at Leopardstown on Thursday.
I certainly wouldn’t be giving up on Sizing John, though. He was quick enough to win over two miles, so a slog around Leopardstown on soft ground might not have been ideal. I’d have thought Cheltenham would suit him better than that.
It was very, very sad to hear what happened to Nichols Canyon. He’s been an unbelievable, consistent star for Willie Mullins and the Wylies.
It’s nice to remember all his good days, especially his gutsy Stayers’ Hurdle win in March.