Richard Johnson Blog - Andrew Thornton & Denman


07 June 2018

Wednesday's race meeting at Uttoxeter was a fairly insignificant one for me, with just a second-placed finish to report, but it was a big day for my weighing room colleague Andrew Thornton. He bought the curtain down on a 28-year career in the saddle with a 1007th career win on Amirr. 

 Andrew is one of a small group of riders to have ridden 1000 winners over jumps, and he is one of the most popular men in the weighing room. You'd struggle to find anyone to say a bad word to say about him. 

His biggest win came in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Cool Dawn in 1998. He won the Welsh National on Miko De Beauchene in 2007 and he has also ridden top horses like Behrajan, Gingembre, Sir Rembrandt and See More Business. The Chepstow Welsh National victory on Miko De Beauchene was an emotional one. The horse was saddled by trainer Robert Alner’s wife Sally as 7 weeks earlier Robert Alner had broken his neck and suffered life-changing injuries in a car accident. 

In recent years Andrew has struggled with injuries and also for riding opportunities. It took him a long time to get the final few winners before reaching the magic 1000 in 2016 to the delight of all of us jockeys. Many of us thought he’d retire then. However a job you love is hard to give up and he’s battled on, adding a handful more winners since. He's one of the hardest working men in the weighing room and he's never been afraid to travel a long way for one ride.  

Andrew is a tall lad, and it would have been harder for him than for many to maintain a riding weight. He'll enjoy not having to watch what he eats anymore, and to be able to spend more time with his family. He's already a pundit on BBC 5Live radio and he's been planning to do more hospitality and presenting work. He'll be good at this as he has a lovely way with people and is great at explaining our sometimes complicated sport in layman's terms. 

It was sad to hear of the death of Denman this week. He was a fantastic ambassador for racing, performing again and again at the top level in an era of exceptional staying chasers. I liked him because he wore his heart on his sleeve and his performance in winning the Hennessy under top weight was the one of the best  I've ever seen. It'll be a poignant day for Sam Thomas and Ruby Walsh who had some great days on him, particularly Sam Thomas, who had his finest hour as a jockey when winning the Gold Cup on Denman. 

I've had an up and down week. On Monday I quite fancied my chances on Massini's Dream in the maiden hurdle at Newton Abbot. Unfortunately, she took exception to the first hurdle and took me through the wings as she ran out. Luckily both she and I were fine afterwards. 

On Tuesday I rode a double at Fontwell for Gary Moore and Warren Greatrex. I've picked up a couple of rides with Gary, while his sons Jamie and Josh are both out of action which is unfortunate for them but a nice opportunity for me.

This Saturday I'll be riding at Stratford. This meeting was traditionally the end of the jumping season and retains its good atmosphere and good prize money despite jump racing now going on all year round. I'll have a few rides, I expect my best chance to come on recent Kempton winner Imperial Presence for Philip Hobbs. 

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