Richard Johnson OBE

National Hunt racing should be immensely proud to have someone like Richard Johnson involved in it.

He’s a real ambassador for the sport and it’s great that he’s been given recognition in such a way.

He’s a great individual as well as a great sportsman. We only use him sparingly, as he obviously has his own commitments, but when we do get the chance he usually wins.

He’s the ultimate professional and totally deserving of the recognition he’s getting.

Christmas runners review

Black Mischief ran a good fourth in the Pertemps Qualifier at Wincanton and we’ll now keep him fresh for the Final at Cheltenham.

He wants slightly better ground and we know he goes well fresh, so hopefully we’ll have him spot on for March.

He doesn’t want to go up any higher in the handicap for a race like that, so now that he’s qualified we’ll keep him back.

Lightly Squeezed and Jeremiah James both ran encouraging races at Wincanton, too, and have given us something to work with.

It was a bit of a concern that we’d only left it 17 days for Bags Groove’s next run in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

We were tip-toeing into the race, rather than freshening up and going in all guns blazing, and that’s not how you win Grade Ones.

In hindsight, we shouldn’t have run him at Huntingdon, and kept him fresh for Kempton. It’s a valuable lesson learned and we can put it down to a training mistake.

He’ll have a little bit of break now and possibly go for the Pendil Novices’ Chase back at Kempton, before going to Aintree, Punchestown or maybe even both.

If The Cap Fits ran well in the Christmas Hurdle, but he clearly needs more of a stamina test. He got slightly outpaced down the back straight before turning in and then just stayed on.

We know for sure now that he needs stepping up in trip and the Aintree Hurdle is the big spring target. He won’t be entered at Cheltenham.

Noel Fehily pulled Momella up after the second in the mares’ handicap hurdle on the 27th.

Although she’s done plenty of schooling since her fall at Newbury, her confidence seems to have been rocked and she just never turned up.

We’re going to put a line through that as nothing has come to light, and we know she’s an awful lot better.

Just A Sting ran a blinder in the penultimate race on a track that’s plenty sharp enough for him.

He jumped very well on only his third start over fences and we’re looking forward to some big races in the spring.

He may well be kept fresh for the Ultima Handicap on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Imperial Esprit was second on debut at Chepstow. He ran a bit green and will have learned plenty.

We’ll look for another soft ground bumper over the next six weeks and hopefully he can put that bit of experience to good use.


Noel torn between Exeter and Cheltenham

Acting Lass kicks things off for us at Cheltenham in the Grade 3 handicap chase (14:00).

Ideally he’d want slower ground, so it’s a slight concern that there’s been no rain and he might be taken slightly off his feet.

He needs to get his season started, though, and there aren’t too many options to go for. He’ll be better for the outing, but he’d be better if it were slower ground.

Wotzizname is our other runner at Cheltenham, in the 3m handicap hurdle (14:35).

He ran a really good race at Southwell the last day, pulling a long way clear of the third, which meant he climbed back up in the handicap.

He’s up 5lbs without winning, which is always a bit gutting, but he’s in good form and should run a big race.

Over at Exeter, Press Gang makes his second start over obstacles in the novices' hurdle (12:40).

He’ll be all the better for his run at Taunton and this stiffer track will suit him as well.

Kieron Edgar keeps the ride and takes off a valuable 3lbs.

Caribert gets his season underway in the maiden hurdle (13:50), which we won with Neon Wolf a couple of seasons ago.

He was a lovely bumper horse last year but was always going to be slightly late getting this season underway as he had a small op on his back through the summer.

He’s ready to get started now and Sean Bowen rides, as Noel is at Cheltenham.

Noel was a little bit torn between Exeter and Cheltenham, but he’s also got to ride Black Op in the Dipper Novices’ Chase.

Sean also rides Rufio in the bumper (16:05) for us.

He made a pleasing debut at Ffos Las and should be all the better for that experience.

And a Happy New Year

I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Fingers crossed for plenty of nice winners and a good second half to the season.

My New Year’s resolution is to get fit. Not just the horses but myself, too!

As for one we’re really looking forward to in the New Year, Bullionaire has been coming along really nicely having had his wind done in the late autumn.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing him in January before taking on some bigger races later in the season.

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