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It was a frustrating November meeting at Cheltenham for me. I think Gumball would have won if he’d stayed on his feet in the novice chase. He’d been foot perfect up until his mistake and that fence catches plenty of horses out, especially novices.

It wasn’t his fault, between us we got it wrong and we paid the price. He’d been so good up to then that it was a surprise he did what he did. Thankfully he seemed fine afterward and I’m looking forward to riding him again in a few weeks.

Defi Du Seuil jumped the first very big which he’s done before, he’s an exuberant horse. He travelled and jumped well through the race and I honestly couldn’t have been happier with him coming to the third last. I was very confident and thought I was going to win.

He just got tired after the second last and I didn’t want to risk anything. There was nothing sinister, he didn’t feel like he’d gone wrong or anything. He’s always been a hard horse to get fit and the ground was atrocious.

He was in great form on Monday and had recovered quickly. You have to remember that everyone’s season was finished in the middle of March so a lot of them have needed a run to get right. Everyone’s training regime is different but Philip’s [Hobbs] have generally come on for their reappearance and hopefully, that will pay off in the spring.

The ground at Cheltenham was really disappointing, I agree with what Alan King said during the week. We didn’t have any fresh ground over the three days. There’s a lot of room at Cheltenham and when you’ve got graded races on each day you should be able to produce fresher ground over the three days.

It's our standout course in the country and it really should be better. The Old Course isn’t used until the Festival now. I know how important March is but so is every other meeting. You still have four months for the ground to recover after November. I accept it’s hard for clerks of the course to keep everyone happy but I definitely think it’s something they need to look at.

Haydock, Saturday

LLANDINABO BOY – 12.10pm Haydock

He won first time out at Bangor and really enjoys soft ground. He had some very good bumper form last season without winning and he had his wind done in the summer. I schooled him on Monday, he’s a very likeable type.

This is a step up in class but you’d like to think he’ll run well. Tom Symonds is in very good form and this looks a nice ride to start off with.

DEISE ABA – 12.40pm Haydock

He won a couple last year and is a typical Trevor Hemmings staying chaser. He’s a big horse and this is his first run of the season so he will definitely improve for it. Trevor loves running his horses at Haydock and if he’s right on the day he won’t be far away.

LE LIGERIEN – 1.50pm Haydock

It was a good performance at Chepstow on his return over two miles. He’s got to go three furlongs further in this but the hurdles track at Haydock is sharp which will suit him. He’s had a run which will stand him in good stead. He loves soft ground and is a front runner so will be there to be shot at. It’s very competitive but he looks to have a good each-way chance.

DOLPHIN SQUARE – 2.25pm Haydock

It was a shame he got put up 2lbs for his return second at Newbury, but that was a very good run. He’s improved from that, and I must admit I was shocked when I saw his price – I think he’s got a really strong each-way chance.

He’s a hardy horse, who is very consistent and streetwise. He’s still on the upgrade, I won this race on Kruzhlinin a few years ago and you need a tough horse that has a good attitude. It’s always a very hard to race to win but he’s the ideal type for it and I can’t believe he’s the price he is. He’s definitely one for you to consider for your Placepots and even a bigger priced Scoop6 selection.

3.00pm Haydock – Betfair Chase

It’s a small but classy field and there are very few negatives with Lostintranslation. The Tizzard horses have really turned the corner in the past couple of weeks. Paul Nicholls’ horses are flying as well and Clan Des Obeaux was an improved horse last year. He’s a horse that comes to hand quickly and enjoys a flat track and three miles.

You’d have to say Lostintranslation is the class horse in the race. Bristol De Mai loves Haydock and this will have been the plan, but the other two are slightly younger and might be tough to beat.

Exeter, Sunday

My best ride on Sunday looks to be From The Heart. He loves soft ground and stays very well. He’s won his last two, so he’s improving all the time and hopefully he can get the hat-trick.

Read Richard Johnson's thoughts on his weekend rides every week exclusively on the Tote blog.


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