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Richard Johnson Blog - Aintree Is Here


04 April 2019

I went to Philip Hobbs’ yard to sit on my Grand National ride Rock The Kasbah on Wednesday morning. He jumped a few schooling fences and he felt fresh and well – now it’s just a case of keeping him fit and healthy for Saturday. He won’t do any more hard exercise, Philip will just keep him ticking over now.

We’ve seen how quickly it can go wrong with Philip’s Cheltenham winner Defi du Seuil knocking a joint this week and not being able to run on Thursday, which is a real shame for Philip and the team. He had been due to run in the 2 ½ mile Manifesto Novices’ Chase, trying to follow up his JLT win.

The mare La Bague Au Roi had the option of this race or the 3 mile 1 furlong Mildmay Novices Chase. However Defi du Seuil’s defection makes Thursday’s race look like the slightly easier option. RSA Chase winner Topofthegame runs in the longer race, and Lostintranslation holds an entry too. La Bague Au Roi missed Cheltenham and has been given a chance to freshen up since her win at Leopardstown and I’m really looking forward to riding her again.

On Saturday at Aintree, as well as Rock The Kasbah, I’m expecting to ride Brewin’upastorm in the Grade 1 2 ½ mile novices hurdle.

There will be a nervous but excited atmosphere in the Weighing Room on Grand National Day. Some jockeys are jokers, some like to try to find a quiet spot. It’s really busy though, the 40 runners of the Grand National make it the biggest field of the year, and there will also be another 20 or so jockeys riding in the other races on the card, so that’s a lot of jockeys to fill the weighing room!

In the morning there will be a briefing just for jockeys riding in the National. They’ll remind us all about not going too fast to the first, obeying the starter and looking after each other.

I wouldn’t want to be the starter. They have to try to get a clean start with 40 riders trying to get a good position, and the eyes of the world are on them. You might not think that your starting position matters that much when you’ve got 4 miles to travel, but most jockeys will want to be in a handy position, giving their horse a good sighting of the first fence.

It helps that the track is so wide, but you’ve still got probably 30 horses trying to get into a forward position where there is really only room for 20. The first mile is really important, you want to get your horse into a nice rhythm, jumping confidently and hopefully enjoying it. It’s not always possible but there will be a few horses that I might try to avoid travelling behind if I don’t entirely trust their jumping. Hopefully we’ll have a little bit of luck.

Tiger Roll has every right to be favourite, he’s a fantastic little horse. He obviously loves his game and has been really impressive this year, surprising a lot of people by being good enough to win a Grade 2 hurdle, and then hacking up in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. Most horses never win again after winning a Grand National, but he seems to be better than ever.

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