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Richard Johnson's Blog - Ascot & Harry Skelton


21 June 2018

With all eyes on Royal Ascot, the jump racing definitely plays second fiddle this week. However, it has been quite a busy week for me. 

Friday's win on Diakali at Newton Abbot was really good. The Grade 1 winning hurdler joined Gary Moore from Willie Mullins recently after losing his way, and this was his second wide margin win since going over fences.

I don't think he's been particularly straight forward, I've read that he and Willie Mullins didn't get on! However, he hasn't given me a moment of worry in the twice I've ridden him and this second win was even more impressive than the first. He was a high-class horse over hurdles but this doesn't always translate to fences. However he gave me a great feel and is a very good jumper. Gary Moore has done a good job with him, he rides the horse out himself and seems to have really freshened him up.

Most of the best horses are not in action at this time of year and it will be interesting to see how he fares in the autumn when the big names re-emerge. The horses he beat at Newton Abbot were decent ones though, and I hope he'll progress and hold his own later in the year. His confidence is high from the two easy wins, I believe a horse knows when it has won, and this horse ought to have enjoyed the experience. 

I doubt I'll ride him again, Jamie Moore is now back from injury and will be on him next time. But I admire all of the Moores and the hard work they put in, and I hope they do well with this horse. 

I have also ridden a couple of winners for Olly Murphy this week, at Fontwell on Saturday and at Stratford on Tuesday. At this early stage of the season I'm a fair way behind Harry Skelton in the jockeys championship. At the moment he's on 42 winners while I'm on 24 so I've got some catching up to do! He rode a double at Fontwell and another one at Uttoxeter on Wednesday. The Skeltons, Harry the jockey and Dan the trainer are in flying form at the moment, they've got a big team of summer jumpers in action. Like the Moores they're an example of a successful and hard-working family in racing. 

Later this week I'll be at Ffos Las on Thursday then probably Market Rasen on Friday and Perth on Saturday. If I wasn't so busy, it would have been fun to have a day at Royal Ascot. I can't pretend to be an expert on flat racing but I enjoy the occasion. I'm mostly interested in the staying races, where the colts may go on to be the the sires of jumping stock. I might perhaps use for my own breeding enterprise, or maybe even ride their offspring one day. 

Royal Ascot is great for the sport, it attracts new people who haven't been racing before, and it is widely covered in the press and on TV. It's important that we capitalise on it. Great British Racing, racing's marketing arm, are good at thinking of new ways to promote the sport. At the moment they're using the TV star David Walliams to promote family trips to the races. One of their clips features Ryan Moore who has an unfair reputation of being a bit miserable! He's not naturally chatty but when interviewed, if he's asked a sensible question, he'll give a sensible answer. Like most jockeys, he'll do his bit when he can to help the sport and it's fun to see him feature in this campaign.  

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