Richard Johnson – Years at the Top – Happy Retirement!

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. After the news a couple of weeks ago that Richard Johnson was retiring from the saddle I have decided to have a look at some facts and figures of his career so I can compile them all into this post for you all. As many people know by now, Richard was the first person within racing to give up his time and allow me to interview him (twice) and has always supported me and helped me with anything I’ve ever needed, which I appreciate more than anyone realises. The day I first interviewed him, he knew it was the first one I was doing and he knew I was nervous, so he took his time, didn’t rush me and he allowed me to make mistakes, he then spoke to me after the interview and gave me encouragement and support to continue doing what I loved and that’s exactly what I did and I am so glad I did! If you missed my interviews with Richard you can read them here… 2017: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2017/10/20/worcester-races-exclusive-interview-with-richard-johnson/ and 2019: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2019/11/22/an-updated-interview-with-champion-jockey-richard-johnson/ . I hope you enjoy those! However, without further ado, I’m just going to jump right into it.


Richard Johnson OBE was born on July 21st 1977 in Hereford, England into a racing family, especially with his mother being Sue Johnson, a horse racing trainer. At 16 years old Richard left school to work for David Nicholson.

Richard’s first win came in April 1994 when he won on Rusty Bridge at Hereford, which turned out to be his only win of the season. However, the following season the 1995-1996 season, Richard rode 56 winners and became the Champion Conditional Jockey at just 18 years old. And he didn’t stop there, the next season 1996-1997 was the first time Richard rode 100 winners in a season ending up with 102 and from that year Richard rode 100 winners every single season (apart from the 2020-2021 season when Richard has retired on 73 winners).

1996 was a pretty good year for Richard, not only did he ride 100+ winners, but those winners also included some pretty big races. Starting with the Towton Novices’ Chase (Class A Grade 2) at Wetherby on the 11th of January on Mr Mulligan, a 3/1 shot who beat the 11/10 favourite Call It A Day by a massive 15 lengths.

Richard then won again on Mr Mulligan a month later on February 14th in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase (Class A Grade 2), this time as the 9/4 favourite, beating 4/1 shot Nahthen Lad by 15 lengths again.

It was then April 11th when Richard had another big win when winning the European Breeders Fund ‘national hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (Class A Grade 3) at Cheltenham on board Miss Optimist, a 9/1 shot for David Nicholson.

Richard’s first Grade 1 win of many also came in 1996 on April 24th when he won the Heineken Gold Cup on Billygoat Gruff for David Nicholson at 7/1.

Moving swiftly into 1997, we then have another brilliant season for Richard, starting with a win in the Seagram Top Novices’ Hurdle (Class A) on April 3rd on Midnight Legend (11/2) beating the team of Mick Fitzgerald and Nicky Henderson with the 100/30 favourite Sharpical by 2 lengths. The very next day, on April 4th another Class A came along, when Richard won the Belle Epoque Sefton Novices’ Hurdle on board Forest Ivory (11/2) actually beating a rare Aidan O’Brien horse, Private Peace (11/2) in second being rode by Charlie Swan.

Richard then headed over to Ireland and Punchestown where he won the Country Pride Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 2) on the 7/4 favourite Midnight Legend, beating the Aidan O’Brien and Paul Carberry partnership with Whats The Verdict (9/1) by 2 and 1/2 lengths.

Moving into the 1997-1998 season, Richard started with winning the William Hill Haldon Gold Cup Chase Limited Handicap (Class A Grade 2) at Exeter on board Viking Flagship (9/1) for David Nicholson, beating stable mate Mulligan (2/1) by 5 lengths.

Richard then won the Bonusprint Bula Hurdle (Class A / Class 1) at Cheltenham on December 13th on board Relkeel for David Nicholson, beating the Martin Pipe and AP McCoy team with the 13/8 favourite Pridwell by 1 and 3/4 lengths. Just 2 weeks later on December 27th, Richard headed to Wetherby with 4/9 favourite Viking Flagship, winning the Castleford Chase (Class A / Class 1).

It was 1998 when Richard would win another Grade 1 when heading to Punchestown on April 30th on board the 2/1 favourite Zafarabad winning the I.A.W.S Champion Four Year Old Hurdle by just a neck. It was almost a year before Richard won another big race, this came on March 18th 1999 when he won the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle Grade 1 at the Cheltenham Festival on a 40/1 shot Anzum, beating the 2/1 joint favourite Le Coudray who was owned by JP McManus, trained by Aidan O’Brien and rode by Charlie Swan by just a neck.

The following month on April 9th, Richard headed to the Aintree Festival and won the Grade 2 Mumm Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Class A) on the 100/30 favourite Spendid – Coincidentally beating a horse trained by who would become Richard’s number 1 trainer, Philip Hobbs with Village King (11/2).

Richard travelled back to Ireland on April 29th where he won the Grade 1 Ballymore Properties Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Anzum (7/1). Richard had plenty of Grade 2 and 3 success during the year, however his next Grade 1 came on December 18th 1999 at Ascot when he won the Cantor Fitzgerald Long Walk Hurdle (Class A) on again on Anzum (4/1) beating the 4/9 favourite Deano’s Beeno by 17 lengths who was rode by AP McCoy and trained by Martin Pipe.

Moving into the 21st century, Richard won the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Showcase Race Grade 1 in March 2000, on Looks Like Trouble (9/2). He then had many Grade 1, 2 and 3 success over the years including the Tingle Creek Chase and Queen Mother Chase, both with Flagship Uberalles, the County Handicap Hurdle and Victor Chandler Bula Hurdle both on Rooster Booster and many more.

Also want to note that Richard came second on What’s Up Boys in the Grand National in 2002, which turned out to be his best position in the race, also meeting this when coming 2nd again in 2014 on Balthazar King.

The next race I want to mention is the Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) in 2003 when Richard won on 9/2 shot Rooster Booster for Philip Hobbs by 11 lengths. When I interviewed Richard he said this was one of this favourite rides of his career.

I am going to jump ahead a little while now as if I went through every single graded race Richard won I would end up having a post which is about a 3 hour read. So let’s jump to 2012 and on March 13th Richard won the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country Chase) at the Cheltenham Festival on Balthazar King (11/2). In 2014, Richard won the same race on the same horse, this time at 4/1 and in the same year he finished 2nd in the Grand National on Balthazar King at 14/1 which was the closest Richard got to winning the big race (for a secon time) and again, when I spoke to him, he said that was also one of his favourite races in his career.

We also have the Midlands Grand National in 2014 when he won on Goulanes (13/2F). The Peterborough Chase in 2014 with Wishfull Thinking (13/2). The Denman Chase in 2015 on Coneygree (15/8F) as well as the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock in 2015 on the recently retired Definitly Red (9/4).

We also have my favourite ever horse, Native River who partnered with Richard when winning the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Hennessy Gold Cup Chase in 2016 and the Welsh Grand National all in 2016, followed by the Denman Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018, the Many Clouds Chase in 2019 and the Cotswold Chase in 2021.

There was also La Bague Au Roi who won the OLBG Mares Hurdle in 2017, Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase and Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in 2018, Flogas Novice Chase in 2019. As well as Thyme Hill who won the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle, Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Challow Novices’ Hurdle in 2019 as well as the Long Distance Hurdle in 2020.


Now we’ve had a brief overview, I want to look at Richard Johnson vs AP McCoy because their rivalry ruled the sport for a long while so let’s just have a little look. Overall AP McCoy finished with 4204 British career wins and 144 Irish career wins whereas Richard Johnson finished with 3799 British career wins and 19 Irish career wins.

From the 1995-1996 season until the 2014-2015 season AP McCoy won and retained the Jump Jockey Championship, however Richard was always on his tail and in the 2015-2016 season after AP retired, Richard took over as Champion Jockey and ended up winning it 4 times, before Brian Hughes won it in the 2019-2020 season.


Now, I’ve summed up Richard’s career, but now let’s look at the Big Race Wins. Let’s start with the Cheltenham Festival:

Cheltenham Gold Cup x 2 (Looks Like Trouble – 2000 & Native River – 2018)
Champion Hurdle x 1 (Rooster Booster – 2003)
Queen Mother Champion Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2002)
Stayers’ Hurdle x 1 (Anzum – 1999)
Triumph Hurdle x 3 (Made in Japan – 2004, Detroit City – 2006 & Defi du Seuil – 2017)
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Menorah – 2010)
Champion Bumper x 1 (Cheltenian – 2011)
Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Massini’s Maguire – 2007)
Arkle Challenge Trophy x 1 (Captain Chris – 2011)
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase x 1 (One Knight – 2003)
Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase x 1 (Copper Bleu – 2010)
Coral Cup x 1 (Monkerhostin – 2004)
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase x 2 (Balthazar King – 2012 & 2014)
Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle x 1 (Flying Tiger – 2017)
Pertemps Final x 1 (Fingal Bay – 2014)
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase x 2 (Dark Stranger – 2000 & Young Spartacus – 2003)
County Handicap Hurdle x 1 (Rooster Booster – 2002)

Now let’s look at some notable races in Britain:

Tingle Creek Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2000)
Long Walk Hurdle x 4 (Anzum – 1999, Mighty Man – 2006 & Reve di Sivola – 2012 & 2013
Henry VIII Novices’ Chase x 1 (Fair Along – 2006)
Kauto Star Novices’ Chase x 1 (La Bague Au Roi – 2018)
Finale Juvenile Hurdle x 3 (Franchoek – 2007, Le Rocher – 2013 & Defi Du Seuil – 2016)
Challow Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Fingal Bay – 2012 & Thyme Hill – 2020)
Ascot Chase x 1 (Captain Chris – 2014)
Manifesto Novices’ Chase x 2 (Wishfull Thinking – 2011 & Menorah – 2012)
Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Lord Brex – 2000 & Detroit City – 2006)
Betway Bowl x 1 (Escartefigue – 1998)
Top Novices’ Hurdle x 5 (Midnight Legend – 1997, Phardante Flyer – 2000, In Contrast – 2002, Mighty Man – 2005 & Lalor – 2018)
Mildmay Novices’ Chase x 3 (Spendid – 1999, What’s Up Boys – 2001 & Native River – 2016)
Sefton Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Forest Ivory – 1997 & Saint Are – 2011)
Liverpool Hurdle x 2 (Mighty Man – 2006 & 2007)
Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase x 1 (Sporting John – 2021)

And now a quick look at Irish notable winners:

Irish Gold Cup x 2 (Florida Pearl – 2001 & 2004)
Punchestown Gold Cup x 1 (Planet of Sound – 2010)
Champion Stayers Hurdle x 1 (Anzum – 1999)
Punchestown Champion Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2003)
Ladbrokes Champion Chase x 1 (Looks Like Trouble – 2000)
Dr P. J. Moriarty Novice Chase x 1 (La Bague Au Roi – 2019)
Herald Champion Novice Hurdle x 1 (Midnight Legend – 1997)
Ryanair Novice Chase x 1 (Captain Chris – 2011)
Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle x 2 (What’s Up Boys – 2000 & Spirit of Adjisa – 2011)
Champion Four Year Old Hurdle x 1 (Zafarabad – 1998)

Also think it’s so important to note here that Richard Johnson rode in the Grand National 21 times without winning which holds the record for the most rides without a win, the closest he got was 2nd in 2002 on What’s Up Boys and 2014 on Balthazar King. So let’s sim up his 21 rides:

1/21 = Unseated
6/21 = Fell
5/21 = Pulled Up
2/21 = Placed
4/21 = Finished
2/21 = Brought Down
1/21 = Refused


Things to note… Richard Johnson became the eighth National Hunt jockey to ride 1000 winners in April 2003. In December 2009, at Newbury, Richard became the second jockey to hit 2000 winners, only joining AP McCoy. In January 2016, Richard had his 3000th winner and after being runner up 16 times to AP McCoy, he finally became Champion Jockey.

I also want to note, even though everybody knows by now, that Richard Johnson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to Horse Racing. And on April 3rd 2021, Richard Johnson announced his immediate retirement at Newton Abbot.


So there we have it, I know this post was a little bit all over the place, but I hope it all makes sense as it does to me! I hope you all enjoyed.

I will hopefully see you all in my next post on Wednesday at 6pm!

The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Good Evening!

I hope day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival was a good one for you all and I hope tomorrow’s fourth and final day is even better. This evening I bring to you my final post of the week, The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I hope you enjoy this one and I hope you learn something new!

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 National Hunt race run on the new course (since 1959), it was first ran in 1924 and is ran over 3 miles, 2 furlongs and 70 yards with 22 fences to jump. The race is open to 5 year olds and over and is ran on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival every March.

In 1924, the winner was Red Splash for jockey Dick Rees for trainer Fred Withington for owner Maj. Humphrey Wyndham.

The first horse to win the race twice in a row was Easter Hero who won as the favourite both times in 1929 and 1930. Firstly he won for jockey Dick Rees for trainer Jack Anthony and owner John Hay Whitney, the second time winning for jockey Tommy Cullinan for the same trainer and owner.

The next horse to make an impact in the race would be Golden Miller, winning in 1932 rode by Ted Leader, in 1933 rode by Billy Stott, in 1934 and 1935 rode by Gerry Wilson – all for Trainer Basil Briscoe and owner Dorothy Paget. Then a fifth and final time in 1936 for jockey Evan Williams, trainer Owen Anthony and owner Dorothy Paget.

We then move forward over ten years to 1948, 1949 ad 1950 where Cottage Rake won all three years for jockey Aubrey Brabazon, trainer Vincent O’Brien and owner Frank Vickerman

The next horse to dominate the sport wouldn’t be until Arkle came along in 1964, winning three years in a row in 1964, 1965 and 1966 for jockey Pat Taaffe, trainer Tom Dreaper and the owner, the Duchess of Westminster.

In 1970 and 1971, L’Escargot won for Tommy Carberry, trainer Dan Moore and owner Raymond R. Guest. In 1986, Dawn Run won for Jonjo O’Neill, Paddy Mullins and Charmian Hill. Desert Orchid won in 1989 for jockey Simon Sherwood, trainer David Elsworth and owner Richard Burridge.

The next horse to make an impact in the Gold Cup would be Best Mate who won in 2002, 2003 and 2004, each time with Jim Culloty riding for trainer Henrietta Knight and owner Jim Lewis.

We then move forward a couple of years to the Kauto Star vs Denman rivalry. In 2007 Kauto Star won for jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith. In 2008, Denman won, beating Kauto Star by 7 lengths, for Sam Thomas, Paul Nicholls and Barber / Findlay. Then in 2009, Kauto Star winning again beating Denman by 13 lengths for Ruby Walsh, Paul Nicholls and Clive Smith.

We then have winners such as Imperial Commander (2010) for Paddy Brennan, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Our Friends in the North. Synchronised (2012) for AP McCoy, Jonjo O’Neill and J.P. McManus. Bobs Worth (2013) for Barry Geraghty, Nicky Henderson and The Not Afraid Partnership. Coneygree (2015) for Nico de Boinville, Mark Bradstock and The Max Partnership.

We also have Don Cossack (2016) for Bryan Cooper, Gordon Elliott and the Gigginstown House Stud – who I wrote about just a few weeks ago, you can read that here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/27/don-cossack-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/

In 2017, Sizing John won for Robbie Power, Jessica Harrington and Ann & Alan Potts. In 2018, my favourite horse ever, Native River winning for Richard Johnson, Colin Tizzard and Brocade Racing, again I wrote about him a few weeks ago, you can read that here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/10/native-river-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/

We then have another double winner with Al Boum Photo winning in both 2019 and 2020 for Paul Townend, Willie Mullins and Mrs J Donnelly.

Some things to note, the race was abandoned in 1931 due to frost, again in 1937 due to flooding, the again in 1943 and 1944 due to World War 2. The 2001 running was cancelled due to a foot and mouth crisis, a substitute race was ran at Sandown.

The most successful horse in the race is Golden Miller who won a total of 5 times, one after another, in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1936.

The leading jockey is Pat Taaffe who won a total of 4 times. Three times on Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966) and once on Fort Leney (1968)

The leading trainer with 5 wins in total is Tom Dreaper who won with Prince Regent (1946), Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966) and Fort Leney (1968).

The leading owner with 7 wins is Dorothy Paget who won with Golden Miller (1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 & 1936), Roman Hackle (1940) and Mont Tremblant (1952).

Now onto some interesting facts about the race. Out of the last 12 winners, 11 of them have been aged between 7 and 9. And out of those last 12 winners, 5 of them have been favourites or joint favourites, with 7 out of the last 12 being in the top 3 of the betting.

Out of the last 12 winners, 10 of them have won on their previous run before the Cheltenham Gold Cup, 9 out of 12 of the last winners had ran within the last 77 days and 12 out of 12 of the last winners had their last run 33 days or longer before the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Only 3 out of the past 12 winners ran in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on their last run, 2 of the 3 won. And 3 out of the past 12 winners ran in the Denman Chase at Newbury as their last run, all 3 of them won. Out of the last 12 winners, 9 of them were rated 166 or higher, with 6 out of 12 being rated 170 or higher. All 12 of the previous winners had won at least one Grade 1 race with 6 out of 12 winning at least 2.


So there we have it, the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I hope you all enjoy tomorrow’s final day of the Festival, I know I’m very much looking forward to it! Again, I hope you all enjoyed this post and maybe learned something new.

My next post will be on Saturday (20/03) at 11am when I bring to you an interview with Eoin Walsh, so I hope to see you then!

Native River: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a brand new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com, today’s post is a little different, but I am hoping to make this into a potential new series called ‘What Makes a People’s Horse?’ And I thought after a brilliant weekend of racing, there is no better time to focus in on one horse who finally found himself back in the winners enclosure and who happens to be my all time favourite horse, which is, of course, Native River. Social media on Saturday was absolutely buzzing with happiness after seeing him win at Sandown and I wanted to write a post, breaking down some of his achievements as well as thinking about how he’s become such a popular horse amongst racing fans. So without further ado, shall we jump right in?

So, first things first, who is Native River? Native River was foaled 4th May 2010, by Indian River (FR) out of Native Mo (IRE). He was bred by Mr Fred Mackey in Ireland and in November 2010 he was consigned to the Tattersalls Ireland National Hunt Sale. He was brought by John Dineen for just €6000 who found owners, husband and wife, Garth and Anne Broom, better known as Brocade Racing.

Native River then began his racing career on the amateur point-to-point circuit. On 17th March 2014, he unseated his rider at a meeting at Dromahane before being sent to England to Colin Tizzard’s yard to start his professional career.

He didn’t get off to a bad start, finishing third out of seven in a National Hunt Flat Race at Newton Abbott on 10th October 2014 under Brendan Powell, before winning his first Novices’ Hurdle just three weeks later on 30th October 2014 at Stratford under Brendan Powell again, at 8/1 beating the 11/4 favourite Mount Haven. The good streak continued, when on 29th November 2014 he won again, this time at Newcastle in a Class 2, again under Brendan Powell, this time at 10/1 beating the odds on 8/11 favourite Definitly Red.

Native River then got stepped up in class for his first Grade 1 at Newbury, maybe a little too soon, as he came 6th out of 6 runners in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle on 29th December 2014. The next time he ran was at Cheltenham on 24th January 2015 in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle where he fell 2 out. His next race came pretty swiftly, on 8th February 2015, this time at Exeter where he returned to his winning ways, winning at 9/2, beating the odds on 4/5 favourite Emerging Talent. Next up for Native River was the big one, the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. A very good line up set to run, after making a mistake and losing places, he finished 9th in the race.

So, where to next? Novice chasing was the way to go and that is exactly what the Tizzard team did. His next race came on 10th October 2015 at Chepstow in his first Novice Chase, where he did not disgrace himself at all, finishing 3rd at 10/1, before very swiftly winning his first Novice Chase just a couple of weeks later on 3rd November 2015 at Exeter as the 11/8 favourite under Brendan Powell again, this time winning by a massive 16 lengths. An interesting fact, in this race he beat Abracadabra Sivola, who was actually rode by Native River’s now jockey, Richard Johnson.

He was then stepped up in class for the Worcester Novices’ Chase over three miles at Newbury on 26th November 2015. He took the lead approaching the final fence before pulling away to win by almost four lengths from 6/4 favourite Un Temps Pour Tout. After this race one of his owners Garth Broom had said:

He’s only five and giving weight away against older, more experienced horses… He’s got it all. He can stay and he can quicken.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/nov/26/colin-tizzard-winner-native-river-newbury

He was then made favourite for the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton’s Boxing Day meeting. After a couple of awkward jumps he finished third as 6/4 favourite, with Tea For Two winning under Lizzie Kelly. His next race came just over a month later on 6th February 2016 at Wetherby in a Grade 2 Novice Chase where he came third at 11/4 behind winner Blaklion (4/1) and second place Definitly Red (3/1). Next up was the Cheltenham Festival where he rode in the Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase on the Tuesday of the festival, 15th March 2016, where he did not disgrace himself in the slightest, coming second behind Minella Rocco (8/1), under Mr Michael Legg at 7/1. He then went onto Aintree on 8th April 2016, for the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase, where arguably one of the best partnerships in horse racing began, winning under Richard Johnson at 11/2.

Native River then started the new season, surprisingly to some, in a Grade 2 hurdle race at Wetherby on 29th October 2016, coming second under Richard Johnson again, at 5/2. Next up was a big one though, the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase over 3 miles 2 furlongs at Newbury on 26th November 2016, where he went on to win as the 7/2 favourite, again under Richard Johnson. This was swiftly followed up by a race just as big, if not bigger, the Coral Welsh Grand National over 3 mile 5 1/2 furlongs at Chepstow on 27th December 2016 where he went on to win as the 11/4 favourite under Richard Johnson once again.

Then into 2017, Native River had a month before his next run which came on 11th February 2017 at Newbury in the Denman Chase, where he won, this time under Aidan Coleman at 11/10. Interesting fact to mention, the brilliant Bristol De Mai, who has had some brilliant races with Native River over the years, ended up coming third in this race as the 10/11 favourite. Next up for Native River was the big one at the Cheltenham Festival, on 17th March 2017 he competed in his first Gold Cup Chase over 3 miles 2 1/2 furlongs. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, however, again not disgracing himself in the slightest, Native River finished 3rd at 7/2 back under his now regular jockey Richard Johnson, behind winner Sizing John (7/1) and Minella Rocco (18/1).

With the Gold Cup being an extremely gruelling race, Native River then took a 330 day break. During his break, I actually conducted my first ever interview which was with Champion Jockey Richard Johnson, which you can read right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2017/10/20/worcester-races-exclusive-interview-with-richard-johnson/ and during that interview he said the following:

I would love to think Native River could come back in the Gold Cup and go two spots better than he did last year. He was 3rd in the race last year and ran really really well. Erm you know, this season we will be geared for him to be running in the Gold Cup again so I suppose he’s my big hope.”

Bare that quote in mind for a few minutes!

Native River then made his return to the track to retain his Denman Chase crown on 10th February 2018, winning as the 8/11 favourite under Champion Jockey and now best friend Richard Johnson, after using that as his prep run, next up The Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup.

Arguably, my favourite race to watch back over and over again and also the first time I was there to witness a Gold Cup in person so definitely a day I will never ever forget! Friday 16th March 2018, the Grade 1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase where Native River went on to win at 5/1, beating 4/1 favourite Might Bite. The duel between these two horses is one never to be forgotten, a brilliant battle between two incredible horses. Side note: I do want to take a second to wish Might Bite the happiest of retirements from racing and I wish him the best in whatever he goes on to do next, an incredible horse and I am so glad he’s been retired on his own terms.

Native River then went on to take a 253 day break before returning on 24th November at Haydock in the Betfair Chase, again, the first time I had been to Betfair Chase Day and what a race it was to watch! With only 5 horses competing, but the best in the country in my opinion, favourite Might Bite (Evens), Native River (5/2), Bristol De Mai (13/2), Thistlecrack (10/1) and Clan Des Obeaux (11/1). Native River finished second behind the incredible Bristol De Mai. Then going in to the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, finishing 3rd at 9/2 behind Clan Des Obeaux (12/1) and Thistlecrack (15/2).

After a 79 day break, we go into 2019 and straight into the Cheltenham Gold Cup to try and retain his title, however it was not meant to be, not to be disgraced, he finished in 4th place with reining Gold Cup Champion Al Boum Photo winning his first Gold Cup at 12/1. Native River then took a long summer holiday with a 267 day break.

During this time, I was honoured to have been able to visit the Colin Tizzard team at Venn Farm where I met my absolute hero Native River. You can read all about it right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2019/11/22/vip-stable-visit-to-colin-tizzards-venn-farm/. But in brief, I was able to watch Native River on the gallops, before then walking him off the walker to his stable, where I fed him and put his blankets on. I was asked to do this by their team as they knew how much I adored him and I can honestly never thank them enough for it, to them it was nothing, but to me, a girl who had followed this horse, travelled to see this horse and just absolutely love him, this was a dream come true. A day I will never ever forget truthfully.

He then returned on 7th December 2019 at Aintree for the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase, where he won as the 5/6 odds on favourite.

Next up was 8th February 2020, the Denman Chase at Newbury, however regular jockey Richard Johnson was unfortunately injured at the time so the Tizzard team called up conditional jockey Jonjo O’Neill Jr for the job where he easily steered Native River around to win as the odds on 2/5 favourite.

However, bad news struck for the Tizzards and Native River fans when just 11 days later on 19th February 2020 it was announced that he was being ruled out for the rest of the season with a suspensory tendon injury with Joe Tizzard telling Racing TV:

Unfortunately we’ve had to scratch Native River from the Gold Cup this morning – he’s picked up a suspensory tendon injury, which means his season is over.”

https://www.racingtv.com/news/injured-native-river-out-of-gold-cup

Bringing joy to so many, Native River finally returned to the track after a 301 day break on 5th December 2020 at Aintree for the Many Clouds Chase where he came 3rd at 9/4 behind Lake View Lad (16/1) and favourite Santini (13/8).

Then this weekend on 6th February 2021, Native River showed his class once again, returning to the winners enclosure when he won the rescheduled Cotswold Chase at Sandown at 13/2 where he beat 9/4 favourite Bristol De Mai.

So, now that I’ve caught you up on a crazy career, I want to just explain a few facts about Native River which I researched this weekend and I couldn’t get my head around. If you follow me and have for a while, you’ll know that this horse is a horse that I absolutely adore and have travelled the country up and down to visit, but I did not realise just how good the statistics are.

So firstly, I am going to go through Native River’s race record of all of those races I have just went through:

U/3116F19/3113321/21113/11/234/11-31

So, summing it up, apart from 1 unseated, 1 6th, 1 fall and 1 9th – all in his p2p/hurdle days, Native River has always been within the top 3, with 1 4th in the entirety of his career and since chasing he’s only finished outside of the top 3 once.

So, as explained above, Native River started his chasing career on 10th October 2015, he did run one hurdle race in 2016 where he came 2nd, this has not been including in these figures, the following figures are purely chasing figures:

20 Races
11 x 1st
2 x 2nd
6 x 3rd
1 x 4th

Which includes winning:

2 x Grade 1’s
6x Grade 2’s
2 x Grade 3’s

Now, Native River’s professional career as a whole, hurdling and chasing, not including his one point-to-point:

28 Races
14 x 1st
3 x 2nd
7 x 3rd
1 x 4th
1 x 6th
1 x 9th
1 x Fall

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves. In his career, he has made over £1 million but also made so many fall in love with him. He is a horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and will give you a million percent every single time and I personally think that is why people love him so much. He’s a horse that as a racing fan, you might not choose to bet on every single time he races, but if and when he does win, you love to see it. (Personally I do bet on him every single time he runs but that’s just me aha). I have loved seeing so many lovely tweets about him this past weekend and I had to share his story and stats!

When I went to the Tizzard’s yard, Joe was very open about how loved he is, he told us how he’s one of the calmest horses in their yard and people are always drawn to him when they visit. You can just see how loved he is by his team and racing fans in general.

On a final note, if Brocade Racing, Colin Tizzard, Joe Tizzard, Richard Johnson or any other connections read this, when he retires I volunteer to take him off your hands if you do not already have a plan. (Cheeky little plug, but if you don’t ask you don’t get, right?)

Thank you so much for reading this post, a little different for me, but I want to take a chance in 2021 and really venture out and try new things, I did put on Twitter this weekend all about my new series and I received over 100 suggestions of horses that people want me to research and look into and write up about, so I have plenty more of this content to come this year and probably into next with the amount I was sent! I am super excited for this series as it is all about opinions, the words ‘people’s horse’ can be interpreted in so many ways, for me a horse like Galileo is a people’s horse, but more for what he’s done since retiring from racing opposed to whilst racing, but then you have the greats like Kauto Star who is known for the unreal racing career he had, but then Native River like today’s post who is still going and is still performing to his best. There are so many ways you can look at why a horse is so popular and that is why I am going to love this series so much as it’s a range of ideas, suggestions and opinions from racing fans. If you do have any other suggestions of horses you’d like me to focus on then do send them my way and I can add them onto my list, the list is very very long but I will be trying to get through them all at some point!

I will hopefully see you all in my next post!

An Interview with Jonjo O’Neill Jr

JonJo

Hi guys!

Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with a brilliant up and coming young jockey, Jonjo O’Neill Jr. Jonjo has rode some incredible horses in some incredible races and he is only just getting started, I was lucky enough to interview Jonjo and really get an insight into to him and his career.

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Jonjo: Favourite race, I would say has to be the Martin Pipe Conditional Race at Cheltenham last year. It was my first festival winner and you know, you never forget your first.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Jonjo: I suppose Kauto Star probably in his prime, he is the best horse in the modern era.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Jonjo: Regarding the whip, erm it’s an absolute necessity for a jockey to have a whip. For safety and for encouragement. The whips nowadays are so well padded, they don’t hurt whatsoever, they just make a sound. So yeah, it’s vital for a jockey to carry a whip with them.

Me: JP McManus is obviously a huge name in racing, what is it like riding for him as an owner?

Jonjo: Yes, I feel very lucky to ride for JP, on a relatively regular basis. I have had quite a bit of luck for them in the past couple of seasons and hopefully that can continue. Obviously it’s the most recognised colours in England, Ireland and France probably. He’s great for the sport and got loads of nice horses and it’s great when we have winners for them as they’ve been great supporters of ours and he’s a gentleman.

Me: No pressure, but when I asked Richard Johnson his bet of the season, he said Lostintranslation to win the Betfair Chase, which of course he did, so what is your bet of the season?

Jonjo: Tiger Roll to win the Cross Country Chase would be my bet of the season.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Jonjo: Racing is not cruel, you know, it’s been a sport in this country for centuries. The Queen is involved and has loads of horses. So many influential people. It is not a cruel sport. These horses have been bred for hundreds of years to do this sport. You know, you got horses like Tiger Roll winning two Grand Nationals and going for his third Grand National, you can’t say he doesn’t like racing.

Me: Obviously AP McCoy has regularly played a huge part in the Jackdaws team – How important has it been to your career having someone as good as him to idolise and look up to?

Jonjo: Yeah AP is definitely someone I have looked up to when I was a kid watching racing and he was riding for Dad and JP. We are very lucky to be able to ask advice from him and you know, he is very good like that and he is obviously a top class sportsman and you can only learn from him.

Me: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by your dad?

Jonjo: Best advice would probably be, be good to everyone you meet on the way up because you’ll meet them all again on the way down.

Me: You have rode Native River to win the Denman Chase, my all time favourite horse, how was that for you? How special of a horse is he? What do you think his chances are in the Gold Cup this year? And with a lot of people speculating, do you ever, personally, see him being a National horse?

Jonjo: Yeah, Native River, he was absolutely deadly last weekend. It doesn’t look like he’s lost any sparkle, he won nicely and jumped great. If the ground came up soft in the Gold Cup, he isn’t without a shout, it’s a very open Gold Cup. Whether I think he’d suit a National? He’d definitely suit the National. Whether he goes for it this year or maybe more next year, he looks to be well weighted this year. He got compressed two pounds. You know, it looks like it would suit him down to the ground, but when it’s an open Gold Cup you’d have to chance your arm in the Gold Cup as well.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Jonjo: It would be between the National and the Gold Cup. But I would love to win the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is usually the best horse in the season, it’s the most prestigious race of the season.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Jonjo: Erm, Soaring Glory, he’s won two bumpers and will probably go to Aintree. He’s a very nice horse and hopefully he’ll have more of a future over hurdles next season.

Me: You’re still so young and have already achieved some incredible things, what is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Jonjo: Just take every little bit of advice and help from everyone that has experienced the game. You can never stop learning in racing and you know, it’s full of ups and downs. And you just have to stay grounded, because there are some serious highs and some serious lows as well, so I think just literally take every bit of advice from everyone as it can help all the way down the line.

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Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Jonjo for taking time out of his day to allow me to interview him. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to interview Jonjo and I hope you have all enjoyed reading it!

See you all very soon for my next post!

VIP Stable Visit to Colin Tizzard’s Venn Farm

Colin Tizzard

Hi guys!

So if you follow me on social media, you will know just how excited I was about my day yesterday. Being able to visit Colin Tizzard’s yard and seeing my favourite ever horse Native River! We had the best experience and the team were all incredible. If you know me you will know how much I love horse racing and how much I love Native River, so yesterday was honestly just an incredible day that I will never forget.

When we arrived, we were met by Joe Tizzard, Colin’s son and assistant trainer, he briefly showed us around the stable, including meeting Native River for the first time, which was a dream. 

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We then went out onto the gallops to watch some of the horses work. Again, seeing Joe at work with the team was an honour to watch, he knew every horse by name, every member of staff by name, it was a lovely thing to see.

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We then was lucky enough to go into Joe’s office and watch him enter and declare horses for the next few days/weeks, including him declaring Lostintranslation for tomorrow Betfair Chase. Joe was very open with us and answered every question we had and showed us the behind the scenes that we don’t ever get to see. The hard, tedious work of finding races, putting horses into races and making sure all of the deadlines are met to enter and declare the horses. 

We then went back out to the gallops, where I had the absolute pleasure of watching my favourite every horse Native River working! He looked in great shape and Joe was very happy with him, it was truly an honour to watch a horse I have followed for years actually at work. We also seen Thistlecrack, who again, was in great shape and looked incredible.

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We spoke to so many members of staff, one in particular who was riding out on Native River, said he sometimes takes it for granted being able to work with such incredible athletes because he does it every single day and it isn’t until he sees people visit and sees how excited they get to meet these incredible stable stars that they really appreciate the job that they get to do every single day. Again, the staff were all lovely, everybody spoke and made us feel welcome and answered any questions we had.

Once back to the yard, Joe took us to meet an incredible horse who won on Wednesday The Big Breakaway, he took us into his stable and showed us just how soft a horse can be, cuddling up to everyone and just being really relaxed and chilled out. Which was so lovely to see.

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After we had our bacon rolls and a cuppa, we were then able to go around and meet more of the stable stars, which of course we took full advantage of!

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We then met the lovely Lostintranslation, who may I add, is the most calm, loving, gentle horse I have ever met. He was also the biggest poser you could ever imagine. But with a big race coming up, I loved being able to meet him before he becomes one of the most famous horses in the country.

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I then got the biggest honour ever, I got to walk Native River home to his stable and put his blanket and coat on. Which may seem like such a small gesture from the team, but to me it was an absolute dream. 

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Colin Tizzard is an incredible trainer along with his whole team, they all work so hard, they are literally non-stop all morning and they deserve every piece of credit they get. I want to say a massive thank you to Joe for his incredible hospitality and being so lovely and welcoming and giving us one of the most incredible days. 

One thing I can say, is if you get the opportunity to go to a stable visit, to any of the yards, then 100% take it, each stable visit I go to is completely different, but one thing that is the exact same in each yard is the love they have for these animals and how much they care and look after them. It’s an incredible setting and everybody involved in the sport are all lovely.

I hope you enjoy this little behind the scenes of Venn Farm!