Richard Johnson's Blog - Altior & Christmas

Racing
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13 December 2018

This time last week I was really excited about riding Lalor in the Henry VIII Novices Chase at Sandown. It was disappointing not to see him win, but in hindsight it wasn't a bad run, he was ultimately only beaten 10 lengths and I was really pleased that he jumped so well. The ground was very soft which didn't suit him at all. He'll find it a lot easier on better ground, and I'm still hopeful he'll be in the mix in the Arkle in March.

I've ridden winners at Huntingdon, Fontwell and Leicester in the last few days, the last two were for Philip Hobbs and he had a treble at Leicester on Wednesday. It's great for all connected with the yard to see Philip doing so well again after a very quiet year last year when the horses weren't right. The owners have had to be very patient for a year when the horses weren't running well and I'm glad that their patience is now being rewarded.

Some young horses didn't run last year when we ordinarily would have run them. It doesn't do horses any good to run them if they're not 100%, but we seem to be reaping the benefits now as there are some nice young horses which have benefitted from having the extra time to develop. 

After riding Lalor it was great to see such a strong performance from Altior in the Tingle Creek. The conditions didn't make it easy for him, there was another very heavy downpour before his race. They were conditions its difficult to pick up from but he always seems to find more. He's not beating ordinary horses, he's beating proven Grade 1 performers comfortably. It was a fantastic run. 

On Wednesday the British Horseracing Authority released its recommendations on horse welfare at the Cheltenham Festival. The sport needs to show that it is considering the welfare of horses and jockeys, and making a very competitive sport as safe as it can be. 

Their recommendations seem sensible. Reducing the field sizes in the two mile chases makes sense. It won't mean that we'll go any slower in the furiously competitive races, but it will mean there is a little more space and you're less likely to be brought down by another faller. Nobody wants to see horses or riders get hurt. 

I'm looking forward to a busy couple of days at Cheltenham this Friday and Saturday. As yet I don't know what I'll be riding but Philip has some good horses entered. War Sound holds an entry in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. He's a horse that ran well all last year without winning, but he seemed to step up again a month ago when he easily won a £50,000 first prize in a class 2 handicap at Aintree.

Rock The Kasbah is entered at Cheltenham on Friday. I don't know yet whether he'll run, as I've said before all roads lead to the Grand National, and he prefers quicker ground. At the moment the going is good, good to soft in places but showers are forecast. 

Western Ryder may take his chances in the Unibet International Hurdle for Warren Greatrex. I won on him at Chepstow a year ago and he subsequently beat Lalor and Summerville Boy over hurdles at Cheltenham. He hasn't won since but he's a good horse.

On Saturday night I'll be at the Lesters, the annual jockeys awards. It's always a fun night. I've been nominated for the Jump Jockey of the Year and Jump Jockey Special Recognition awards. In the latter category I'm the only jockey still riding (the others nominated are Ryan Hatch, Timmy Murphy and Andrew Thornton). I hope they're not trying to tell me something!

There's no racing on Christmas Eve so I'll be out with my family at the Radnor and West Hereford Hunt. My Mum's horse The Last Bridge is likely to run the weekend before at Hereford, but he'll be out again for the hunt, my wife Fiona and I will decide between ourselves who rides him and who rides Menorah! 

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