The retirement of jockey Richard Johnson took most people, apart from those closest to him, by surprise last Saturday at Newton Abbot.
The four times champion jockey rode an incredible 3819 winners in a career spanning 27 years. He won most of the biggest races in the sport including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He was also runner-up in the Jockeys’ Championship 16 times to Sir Anthony McCoy.
Frustratingly an Aintree Grand National success eluded him despite 21 rides – a record for a jockey – and two second-placed finishes on What's Up Boys in 2002 and Balthazar King in 2014.
Richard was conditional (trainee) jockey to the great trainer David Nicholson. He was born in Hereford and his first winner came at his local course on Rusty Bridge in a hunter chase in April 1994.
In his early days he rode regularly for Milton Bradley, the recent retired trainer who is based at Sedbury near Chepstow. For the majority of his career, he was most closely associated with trainers Philip Hobbs and Henry Daly but also rode regularly for Vale of Glamorgan based Tim Vaughan.
In recent years he has been an ambassador for Chepstow Racecourse, a track where he is the most successful jockey and has won the Coral Welsh Grand National twice – on Edmond in 1999 and Native River in 2016. He will be remembered not just as a brilliant jockey and role model but also a down to earth, friendly and helpful person who always had time for people.
The race that eluded Richard, the Aintree Grand National, takes place this coming Saturday and James Bowen, all being well, is set to ride this year’s Coral Welsh Grand National winner, Secret Reprieve.
The horse is currently number 43 in the list of acceptors for the big race and only 40 can run so it’ll be an anxious wait to see if any of those entered above Secret Reprieve pull out. The Evan Williams trained gelding is usually ridden by Adam Wedge but he has failed to recover from a back injury. James has been in fine form in recent weeks and is on 32 winners for the season.
Potters Corner, the 2019 winner of the Coral Welsh Grand National, also lines-up for the biggest prize in jump racing for Ogmore-By-Sea trainer Christian Williams. The horse won last year’s ‘virtual’ Grand National so let’s hope that performance turns into reality this Saturday. It would be a wonderful story for his fabulous group of owners including Jonathan Davies.
It was brilliant to see popular Bridgend based trainer John Flint win last week’s Potters Canter Carpet West Wales National at Ffos Las with Amateur. Amateur is a horse definitely on the upgrade and he won fairly easily by seven lengths under jockey Jamie Bargary.
The good form of jockey James Bowen continued when Landofsmiles followed up last month’s Chepstow victory with success in the three mile handicap chase. Evan Williams rarely leaves Ffos Las without a winner and his gelding Arcade Attraction took the final race of the day. Conditional jockey Niall Moore was in the saddle.
I was delighted to see racehorse owners back on track at Chepstow on Easter Monday following approval from Monmouthshire County Council’s Safety Advisory Group. They will also be back on course for our next meeting this Saturday 10th April which is sponsored by Chepstow Contract Rentals and is live on Sky Sports Racing.