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Richard Johnson: The most important thing is getting your horse into a good rhythm

08 Apr | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Richard Johnson: The most important thing is getting your horse into a good rhythm

In his exclusive column, the National Hunt jockey and Betway ambassador describes how to negotiate the famous Aintree fences

The Grand National is the race we all want to win. I’ve been second a couple of times and it would be wonderful if I could win it the same year as being crowned champion jockey for the first time.

I’m on Kruzhlinin for Philip [Hobbs] and it’s good that he has some course form.

What you need in the National

You need to have a horse that can handle some cut in the ground. It will never be fast ground again, they will always water it to make sure it’s safe.

People often ask me what the most important thing is when riding in the National and I believe it’s getting your horse into a good rhythm over the first five or six fences.

There’s a big build up to the race and some horses boil over, so it’s really important to try to keep them as relaxed as possible at the start.

If they’re relaxed, then they’re more likely to respect the first fence and start the race well.

Becher’s Brook

The most famous obstacle on the course is Becher’s Brook and, although it is isn’t as big as it used to be, it’s still pretty big.

The fence is on a bit of an angle, so ideally you’d jump it ever so slightly right to left and about a third of the fence away from the inside. That’s pretty much the perfect line.

Foinavon and the Canal Turn

You then move on to Foinavon, which is the smallest fence, but still very tricky as you’re constantly turning.

The Canal Turn is then even more pronounced. Jockeys tend to come a little wider into the fence and then cut across it. Basically you’re jumping a fence around a bend.

It’s always an important part of the race because you can save ground if you’re fluent, while if you’re not you can lose your rhythm and get shuffled back.

Getting into a rhythm in that spell from Becher’s to the Canal Turn to Valentines is probably the most important.

The Chair

The Chair is the other famous fence and it’s quite a bit narrower than most of the other fences.

We only jump it on the first circuit, but you almost funnel into a chute in front of the stands.

It can be intimidating for horses, as they can get crowded, and I always try to give them a clear sight of the fence.

Second circuit

Once you’ve got the first circuit out of the way, you can then start to make a plan and change things if you need to.

Hopefully by that stage your horse is jumping fluently and enjoying it. If they are, you’re in with a chance.

The last mile or mile and a half is where you want to get into a good position and ride your race from there.

My chance with Kruzhlinin

Kruzhlinin normally races fairly prominently and my plan will be to let him find his stride early on. Hopefully we’ll get a good start and sit in the first half of the field.

I’ve been pleased with his jumping on his last two starts. You have a little more time at Aintree because it’s such a long race and that will help him.

It’s nice that he’s been there before and that he ticks a few of the boxes. He goes there with a realistic each-way chance.

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