Native River: jockey Richard Johnson thinks he can win Gold Cup
PICTURE:John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
By Graham Dench 8:01PM 7 MAR 2017
RICHARD JOHNSON believes he has a great chance of bridging the 17-year gap since Looks Like Trouble by winning the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on Native River, who enjoyed the ideal prep at Newbury last month.
The clash between Native River and Colin Tizzard-trained stablemate Cue Card, amid a horde of Irish raiders, will provide the icing on the cake of jump racing’s showcase festival.
Johnson, who will be heading to Cheltenham as champion jockey for the first time but will approach the meeting no differently, stood himself down from the Denman Chase ride through illness but was nevertheless instrumental in the seven-year-old’s success at Newbury, having talked over tactics with his replacement Aidan Coleman.
He said: “A lot of people had him down as just a stayer, but he’s got class and he’s not a one-dimensional horse who can only win by breaking everyone else’s hearts. He does stay, and he can make the running, but he doesn’t have to lead.
“I’ve learned through riding him that he enjoys the company of other horses, so you can ride the race to suit him and not necessarily give everything else a lead.
“Aidan and I talked before the race and it all fell into place. After hard races in the Hennessy and the Welsh National, which he came through really well, it was much his easiest race of the season and so the ideal prep for Cheltenham.”
Johnson’s only Gold Cup came on Looks Like Trouble 17 long years ago, but his appetite for a second is as strong as ever.
He continued: “For me the Gold Cup is the most important race of the season. There are lots of other good races, but when you talk about chasing’s legends it’s the great Gold Cup winners like Arkle and Kauto Star who first come to mind.
“I’ve been lucky to win the race once already and I think I’ve got a very strong chance of doing it again. I wouldn’t swap him and I’m very excited.”