Johnson itching to ride returning star after schooling session
Champion jockey Richard Johnson gave the thumbs-up after schooling Coneygree on Tuesday morning but is still unsure if he will be free to ride last year's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup winner when he makes his comeback from injury in Saturday's Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Johnson partnered the unbeaten chaser, trained by Mark and Sara Bradstock, in a schooling session at Nicky Henderson's stable and was delighted with the nine-year-old, who has not raced since winning a three-runner event at Sandown in November last year.
"It was all good," said Johnson. "He's very straightforward and schooled nicely and it's all systems go for Haydock. He jumped six fences twice at Nicky Henderson's just to get him off the ground and it went well.
"It was nice to sit on him and he seems in very good order. He looked fantastic and feels in great shape. They're all happy with him and they know him better than anyone."
Johnson is the preferred choice to replace Coneygree's injured regular rider Nico de Boinville on Saturday, although the champ cannot fully commit at this stage, with the possibility he will be required to partner Menorah for boss Philip Hobbs in the same race or even ride at Ascot instead.
"I really don't know," said Johnson. "The Bradstocks spoke to Philip as well at the weekend to see if there would be an opportunity but it really depends. Menorah's in the same race and Philip has got runners at Ascot so it will be a case of Philip going through all the entries over the next couple of days and seeing how it works best.
"If we can it will be fantastic. He's unbeaten over fences and won a Gold Cup and whoever gets to ride him is going to have a fantastic ride for sure."