As we come towards the end of the year, Champion Jockey Richard Johnson tells Betway of his prospects at Ascot on Saturday, ahead of an enjoyable Sunday evening.
“I’m looking forward to going to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday night in Birmingham.
“It’s been a fantastic year of sport with the Olympics and it should be a really fun evening. Of all the people nominated I’ll definitely be giving my support to Nick Skelton.
“I’ve watched him throughout my life and to win a gold medal at this stage of his career is truly amazing.”
Before then, Johnson heads to Berkshire, where he partners Pull The Chord first:
“I thought Pull The Chord ran well on his first start over fences at Ludlow, I was really pleased with him that day. He should have a good chance in the handicap chase (1.50pm).
“Ascot is a demanding course, especially heading down the back straight when they’re going down the hill. They need to be assured with their jumping.
“This is a bigger test than Ludlow, but he definitely shaped well that day and I’d be quite hopeful.
“It’s great to pick up another big ride for the Twiston-Davies yard with Ballyoptic in the Long Walk (2.25pm).
“He had a bad fall at Wetherby when he was upsides at the last, but his form is very solid. That might have knocked his confidence a little, as he wasn’t quite as fluent with his jumping at Newbury last time.
“Having that run under his belt is a real bonus and Nigel’s horses are in great nick.
“Unowhatimeanharry was impressive at Newbury and we have to improve to beat him. But he’s a young horse and there’s no reason to suggest that he won’t improve.
“I’ve never ridden Ballyoptic before so will be guided by Nigel and Sam. He’s a very strong stayer and Reve De Sivola, who’s another great stayer, loves it round here because it’s a real test.
“There’s plenty of strength in depth in this race, but I hope there’s more to come from Ballyoptic. His staying ability has to be a real bonus.
“Go Conquer is another nice ride to pick up in the Silver Cup (3.00pm). Jonjo’s [O’Neill] horse are in great form and you’d have to respect a horse that’s open to improvement in a race like this.
“He won well at Wincanton last April and there was a long way back to the third when he was second to Present Man here last month.
“The winner won again at Doncaster last week, so the form has been franked. Hopefully he can run another big race.
“Sternrubin tries to win the big handicap hurdle (3.35pm) for the second year running and he’s a real favourite of mine.
“Ascot really suits him, he’s run the best races of his career here. Unfortunately he’s a bit higher in the weights than when he dead-heated last year, but his win over course and distance in October showed that he’d improved again.
“The Greatwood probably came just a little too soon after that. He’s a horse that gives 200% every time he runs, so he gives himself hard races.
“It’s a wide open race and he should have a decent chance. You’d have to think wherever he finishes Jolly’s Cracked It should be fairly close.
“You can never be two places at once, but if I was going to Haydock, the main reason I’d be going would be for Tearsofclewbay in the mares novices’ hurdle (2.05pm). She was impressive at Worcester in October and is a very talented mare.”
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