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Four-time Champion Jockey Richard Johnson provides an update on his recent rides for Tote.

It was nice to get a winner at Wincanton on Saturday. The White Mouse had been off for a very long time so it was a fantastic training performance by Lucy Wadham to get her to win the mares’ handicap hurdle.

I thought she was getting tired leaving the back straight, so I sat still for a little bit and she found her second wind. She finished very strongly and there is plenty more to come. As a jockey, with a horse returning from a big absence, you think you’re going to be a bit cautious rather than forceful earlier in the race. The horse tends to tell you what to do and when I asked she responded which was great to see.

I think the plan had been to go novice chasing, but it might be worth looking for another valuable mares’ hurdle now.

Adrimel was really good at Sandown, he’s a horse I loved last year. He’s a big, strapping type and is definitely a chaser in the making. He won his bumper at Uttoxeter very impressively and we thought he was a horse that would continue improving.

This was his first start over hurdles and you couldn’t have been happier really. He jumped nicely and I’m sure he’ll improve for it. He handles soft ground very well and that is going to be the key to him going forward.

Tom (Lacey) mentioned the Tolworth Hurdle back at Sandown for him and that would be the ideal race. You’d expect the ground will be very soft there in early January, particularly on the hurdles track. I’d imagine Tom will try to find one more run somewhere else before a crack at the Tolworth. He’s definitely one to follow.

We were pleased with Garde La Victoire who finished third at Hereford in the week. He’s come down the weights a little bit and you’d like to think there will be a nice two and a half mile handicap for him somewhere over the next few weeks. He’s getting on a bit but he gave me a really good feel and the enthusiasm is definitely still there.

Sporting John was a little bit disappointing on his chasing debut at Exeter on Wednesday. He travelled and jumped well for the first two miles but got tired in the home straight. It was obviously his first run of the season but we hoped he would have found a bit more than that.

He was fine on Thursday morning, so hopefully he’s just one of those horses that needs his first run to get him back in the groove. We’ll probably look for a similar novice chase in a few weeks and I’m sure you’ll see a better horse next time.

Looking ahead to the weekend

ON THE SLOPES – 1.50pm Cheltenham  

It’s great to be back at Cheltenham for the big November meeting and I’m really looking forward to riding On The Slopes in the two mile handicap chase. The form of his third here in January couldn’t be any stronger with Imperial Aura and Simply The Betts both coming out and winning at the Festival.

He’s been dropped a pound by the handicapper for his reappearance effort behind Rouge Vif. He had no chance of beating the winner, who will probably end up in the Champion Chase, that day but it was tight behind him. I thought it was a very good reappearance and he goes there with a strong chance.

I’ve had a few rides for Chris Gordon over the past few weeks and his horses are in really good order. Hopefully that bears well for this race.

3.00pm Cheltenham – Cross Country Chase

A few years ago people wouldn’t have even been talking about the Cross Country but it looks the highlight of the first day. I’ll certainly be watching on from the weighing room with interest. Tiger Roll is obviously an absolutely fantastic horse and he knows his way around there. Easysland beat him off levels at the Festival, though, and he will be receiving weight in this, so on form you’d have to favour him.

They are the two class horses in the race but they’re going to have to concede a lot of weight to Potters Corner who won the Welsh National which will make it interesting.

HAZZAAR – 4.05pm Cheltenham

My second ride of the day is in the last for Tom Lacey who is another trainer in good form. I don’t know too much about the horse but he ran some nice races last year and he’s still a novice. You’re always looking for a horse that can improve in a novice handicap like this and fingers crossed he can.


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