Richard Johnson is confident that conditions will not affect the chances of Lalor in the Arkle on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
Richard Johnson has played down the possibility of soft ground scuppering Lalor’s hopes of winning the Racing Post Arkle (Lalor 4/1 Outright NRNB) on day one of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.
The 41-year-old champion Jockey (25/1 Top Jockey Cheltenham Festival Specials) spoke out as concerns over the ground were raised with a lot of rain in the forecast in the build-up to the eagerly-awaited Prestbury Park meeting.
Lalor’s last outing saw him struggle on heavy ground when, starting as the favourite, he finished third in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown back in December.
However, Johnson believes the ground will not be as soft in what is one of the first races of the three-day Festival, while he highlighted a win for Lalor on similar ground almost 11 months ago at Aintree and then at Cheltenham in November for an Arkle trial.
He told the Racing Post: “I don’t think the ground will affect his chances as it was pretty soft at Aintree last year when he won the Top Novices’ Hurdle.
“It will be fresh ground as the Arkle is the first chase on the card, and he’s going there fresh and well. The Sandown ground was much more tacky and the race probably came a bit too quick after his Cheltenham win [in November] as well.”
Speaking of his hopes for the Kayley Woollacott-trained seven-year old, Johnson added: “If he can reproduce his run from November it will take a good one to beat him.
“He’s one of my best rides of the week. He’s in really good form and I wouldn’t swap him for anything else in the race.”
Odds subject to change.