So yesterday, whilst at Wincanton, I was lucky enough to do an updated interview with the Champion Jockey Richard Johnson. So without further ado, we will get straight into it!
Me: Last time I interviewed you, you tipped Native River as your best chance at Cheltenham and you went on to win the Gold Cup with him, what is your top tip for 2020’s Cheltenham Festival?
Richard: Oh my gosh, erm, I suppose Thyme Hill I won on at Cheltenham the other day, you know, he’s just a really nice horse, he’s won two hurdle races already, they have both been grade 2’s so he’s already shown a very good level of form. And I don’t really know which race he will run in at Cheltenham yet but I know the plan will be to try and go there in March. So fingers crossed.
Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?
Richard: Look, I think, obviously the whip has been spoken about since I started riding, I think personally, the whip is in a really really good place at the moment. Obviously I think the rules we have over here are very fair for jockeys and the jockeys over here use the whip in a very good way. And I think that horse welfare is very important but I don’t feel like the horses are under threat at all and at the moment, again the whip rules are in a very good place and obviously it’s worth reviewing it all the time but I think in the world of horse racing we are at the front of the whip management.
Me: How did you get involved in riding for Gordon Elliott over here?
Richard: I have ridden for Gordon for a long time, but I actually rode his first ever winner he trained and that was at Perth, I think that’s why he loves Perth so much, that was an awful long time ago, But he’s a great connection and when he brings horses over, particularly in the summer, I tend to ride a lot of them. So he’s a great man to ride for and a great trainer.
Me: As you are one of the leading jockey’s at Chepstow, what is the secret? Because when we visited there, we couldn’t pick a winner.
Richard: I think Chepstow is a track where you need the right horse, that’s the main thing. It’s always good competitive racing there, but it is a stiff track and you need a horse that stays. This year especially we have had all the rain, so you do need a horse that handles all of that, a proper winter national hunt horse rather than an ex flat horse who needs decent ground. It’s just having the right horses that’s the important thing and I am lucky that quite a lot of Mr Hobbs’ horses suit the track, again, he’s a great trainer, you know, he knows the right horses to ride there and that’s why he has a great strike rate there as well.
Me: Are you keeping AP’s record in sight? Do you see yourself equalling it or beating it?
Richard: Erm, well it is definitely in sight, I know where it is. But I think it’s a long long way away at the moment, my next ambition I suppose is to try and get to 4000 winners which you know, I have to ride a lot more to get to there, so it is one step at a time. But it’s always something people talk about, but for me I take every season as it comes.
Me: We are visiting Philip Hobbs’ stable soon, what is the secret behind the long running relationship you have with him and his team?
Richard: Look they’re a fantastic team to ride for, very professional. Philip is an absolute gentleman as well, he takes the rough with the smooth. Obviously everybody is a great winner but he is very level headed and takes the good and the bad all the same. We have been together and had a very good partnership and we understand each other quite well.
Me: With AP and Ruby now retired, we are seeing a generation of jockey’s slowly phasing out, what younger, upcoming jockey’s do you see becoming a future Champion Jockey?
Richard: Gosh, there’s an awful lot. Obviously there are the likes of Sam Twiston-Davies, Aidan Coleman, Harry Skelton, you know that sort of brigade coming through sort of after me I suppose. And then you’ve got your James and Sean Bowen, Richard Patrick and a whole heap of, young Jonjo O’Neill now is doing really well as well and I’ve only named a few there and there is a awful lot of talent about out there and I’m just trying to stay one step ahead of them and hopefully they don’t push me out of the door too soon.
Me: There are some incredible women jockey’s at the minute, do you ever see a woman becoming Champion Jockey?
Richard: I can’t see why not. Like you say, I think Lizzie Kelly and obviously Bridget Andrews, they’re probably the two and obviously Rachael Blackmore in Ireland, obviously she came very close to being Champion Jockey in Ireland last year. Looks, it’s all, whether you’re male or female riding a horse, it’s the same for us all and the most important thing is riding the right horses. I am very lucky to consistently get lovely horses to ride and again, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, so I can’t see any reason why at some point that wouldn’t happen.
Me: With the Betfair Chase on Saturday, who do you tip to win and do you see a horse winning the Million Pound Triple?
Richard: Well look, obviously Kauto Star did it and you need to be a fantastic horse to win the Gold Cup and the King George, you know, in their own rights, those two races are very hard and different tests of a horse’s speed at Kempton and the stamina at Cheltenham. So you need a very very talented horse, there’s no reason why another horse can’t do it again. There’s only four there on Saturday now, Lostintranslation looks to have the world ahead of him and he’s the horse for me, that if he went on and won on Saturday, he’s the one, not saying he is definitely going to do it, but he’s the one looking open to the improvement to go in that direction.
Me: Finally, what do you think of Altior in the King George?
Richard: Again, a lot of good two milers have won a King George and stepped up in trip to do that. So there’s no reason that he shouldn’t. But again, we shall see him run on Saturday and I assume if he wins the King George will be his next run. But for me he’s one of the best horses I’ve seen, you aren’t unbeaten over fences for no reason, so he’s a fantastic horse and it’s always lovely to see him running.
So there we have it! Some very interesting answers there from Richard. It was a pleasure interviewing him, as always he was a gentleman! So we have a top tip looking forward to Cheltenham and Richard’s pick for the Betfair Chase tomorrow!
Thank you so much for reading.
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