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Richard Johnson: Wishfull Thinking still thinks he’s a four-year-old

22 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Richard Johnson: Wishfull Thinking still thinks he’s a four-year-old

In his exclusive column, the National Hunt jockey and Betway ambassador previews Cheltenham’s two-day Showcase and the Old Roan Chase

I’m writing my blog a day earlier this week as Cheltenham’s two-day Showcase meeting gets under way on Friday.

Everyone has their eyes fixed on the skies at the moment as the ground is unseasonably quick, so I’m still a bit sketchy over who I’ll definitely be riding on Saturday and Sunday.

Friday

Kicking off with Friday’s action and I ride Casual Approach for Gordon Elliott in the novices’ hurdle (2.10pm).

You have to respect anything he brings over to these shores and I’m lucky enough to have teamed up with him a lot over the summer.

He certainly wouldn’t be bringing Casual Approach over if he didn’t think he had a chance and I’m looking forward to the ride.

He’s race fit with a recent win at Navan under his belt and, unlike some of these, will definitely stay the 2m 5f trip.

John Ferguson’s Penglai Pavilion looks the one to beat on the back of two emphatic wins over hurdles during the summer. He was good enough to mix it with Treve on the flat, so if he stays the trip we’ll all have to go some to catch him.

Owners, trainers and jockeys wish that all horses were like Kilfinichen Bay, who lines up in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (3.20pm).

Charlie Longsdon has done an amazing job with this fellow who has now remarkably won eight of his last nine starts.

I’m lucky enough to have been on him for five of those, including when he won his first race at Southwell back in August 2014.

He won that handicap racing off a mark of 80 and reappears on Friday from a revised mark of 140. All I can say is he must have been some certainty at Southwell that day!

He’s a lovely horse to ride with the perfect attitude, but may just find things tough giving all of his 11 other rivals weight.

My final ride of the day, and my best chance of a winner, is Drumlee Sunset in the maiden hurdle (4.30pm). He won his bumper for us back in February and has been given plenty of time since.

Connections could have easily thrown him in the deep end in one of the big festival bumpers, but quite rightly opted to give him time.

He’ll definitely stay further in time, but Friday’s race looks the perfect starting point and he feels in good form at home.

Saturday

I won’t know what I’m definitely riding until the morning and the lack of rain is certainly causing all of us a few headaches.

Hopefully Dunraven Storm will be declared for the handicap chase (2.10pm) as he has come on for his reappearance run at Kelso earlier in the month.

He tends to need that first outing to blow all the freshness away and he’ll be spot on for this.

He was out of his depth in the Arkle last season and was then unlucky when falling at both Exeter and Ayr. He’s actually a pretty safe jumper and I’m looking forward to getting back on him.

Roalco De Farges won the big three-mile handicap chase on this card 12 months ago and can go close again on Saturday (3.20pm).

The truth is that he is a bit of an enigma and you never really know what you are going to get.

The positives are that he goes well fresh, our team seem in good order and he’s racing of only a 4lb higher mark than last year which wouldn’t have stopped him.

Sunday

I’m really excited about Wishfull Thinking‘s reappearance in the Old Roan Chase (3.30pm) at Aintree on Sunday.

He may be a 12-year-old now, but he honestly still thinks he’s a four-year-old. I sat on him last week and he was bouncing alongside Captain Chris.

He’s top weight again on Sunday, but races from the same mark of 162 and, although this will again require a career-best performance, I’m confident he’s in good form and will put up a bold show.

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READ: Richard Johnson: I’ve no intention of quitting if I’m crowned champion

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