Richard Johnson Blog - Pony Racing and Easter

Racing
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16 April 2019

I’ve spent the last few days recovering from a couple of falls on a bad day at the office at Ayr on Friday. I was pretty battered and sore, and it was a shame that I was forced to miss Scottish National Day on Saturday and also a couple of winners at Stratford on Sunday.

I took it easy on Saturday and saw my physio on Sunday, who said I hadn’t done any lasting damage. It’s school holidays so it has meant I’ve been able to spend some more time with the children.

Willow, my eldest child is riding in her first pony race on Good Friday at Cheltenham. She’s 10 years old. She’s keen and excited, if a bit nervous! It’s an event organised by the Pony Club, so it’s a bit less professional than the pony racing on mini thoroughbreds that you sometimes see before racing at ordinary race meetings.

She’s riding her own pony Blue, who isn’t a racing pony (which change hands for tens of thousands) so it’s a nice introduction to the sport. I do feel a bit sorry for her, she’ll be in the spotlight a bit because of the family name, but I hope she just goes out and enjoys it. They’ll race over 6 furlongs and she’ll be wearing a specially made set of my mum’s racing colours.

Pony racing is a great way into the sport, and for those keen enough it can lead on to point to point riding or an apprenticeship at a yard. It’s a more gentle introduction than going straight into riding in a 3 mile point to point, and it’s a great way of a rider honing his or her skills and keeping them interested in the sport through their early teens.

We’re seeing the benefit now, with lots of the leading British jockeys having come through the pony racing and point to pointing ranks. There is less of a monopoly of leading Irish apprentices.

Some of the most successful youngsters around now are the Welsh boys. It was good to see Connor Brace riding the Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Verdana Blue, and Lorcan Williams riding plenty of winners recently too. They’re good riders, and the fact that they’re picking up high profile rides for the biggest trainers around shows the esteem they’re held in.

Rock The Kasbah was brought down at the 18th in the Grand National. It was somewhat frustrating because he was going at his best at that point. He frightened himself over the first 5 or 6 fences, but a circuit in he was travelling well and had got the hang of the fences. It’s annoying, because we still don’t know if he would get the trip, but I expect he’ll have another go at some point. A win for the amazing little horse Tiger Roll was a great story for racing.

We’re still waiting for our first foal of the year to arrive. The mare has been kept in the stable for the last couple of days because it looks like it’s imminent, I expect it will arrive in the next 48 hours or so, just in time for Easter.

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