Richard Johnson: Important that people talk about mental health
The champion jockey reflects on his weekend rides at Cheltenham, as well as his time at the Sports Personality of the Year awards.
Cheltenham on Friday
I really liked I K Brunel, who I rode for Olly Murphy in the novice hurdle. He’s a very nice horse and ran well to finish third.
Adrian Heskin, who would have ridden him, sadly broke his leg on Thursday in a horrible fall and I wish him a speedy recovery.
This is definitely a horse for next season rather than this one as he’s still a bit of a baby. He’s only a four-year-old and is one to keep in your notebooks for the future.
The mares’ handicap chase was dramatic to say the least with a number of them falling.
I was nice and handy on Synopsis who gave me a great ride. Gordon Elliott told me beforehand it was 50-50 if she got out of bed on the right side.
I knew pretty quickly that she was on a going day. She jumped the first three nicely and travelled well. Black Tulip went a strong gallop and the further I went the better I travelled.
Rock The Kasbah didn’t run badly and, to be fair to him, I think his win last month took plenty out of him.
He travelled nicely for the first half of the race, but didn’t quite feel the same horse in the second half. He normally goes well fresh and he’ll have a mid-season break now.
Hopefully all roads lead to the Grand National, although he would be ground dependent as he needs a decent surface.
He’s already won a nice prize this season and the Grand National is the logical aim. If it turned soft at Aintree, we’ve also got the Scottish National or Sandown on the last day of the season.
I doubt you’ll see him now until the weights are out.
Cheltenham on Saturday
We were delighted with Ozzie The Oscar. It’s never easy to carry top weight off that sort of mark. He travelled well and although he made a couple of mistakes, he found more from two out.
It’s going to be difficult for him now as he’ll go up further in the weights, but he’s a progressive horse.
He’s probably on the verge of graded races now. The ground is important to him. He doesn’t want it too soft and we were lucky the rain came later.
He’s won over two and a half miles, so there are a few options for him. We’ll have to see what the handicapper does and then make a plan from there.
War Sound was never travelling in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, I never felt at the races. He normally travels and jumps really well but for whatever reason he didn’t run up to his form.
He seemed fine afterwards, but he’ll be given a once over back at Philip Hobbs' and hopefully he’ll bounce back next time.
It was a fantastic performance by Frodon to win off that mark, especially making all. He’s very bold and it was a great display. He must have a big chance in the Ryanair at the Festival.
Western Ryder ran really well in the International to finish third. We went a good strong gallop, I was in top gear the whole way, but he stayed on up the hill.
It will depend on what the handicapper does, but if he leaves him on a similar mark I’m sure the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February will be on the agenda.
A fast-run two miles should see him at his best and then he’ll probably go novice chasing next season.
Petticoat Tails also ran well in the mares’ handicap hurdle. She’s a good traveller, but when it comes to the business end she’s just a bit one-paced, so we’ll probably step her up to three miles next time.
Southwell on Sunday
Stoney Mountain was great and it was good to get him qualified for the EBF Final at Sandown in March, which was the main reason for going to Southwell.
We went a good gallop, he picked up nicely after two out and got the job done well. The EBF Final is definitely one of his options for the spring, but I could also see him running well in the 3m Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree. He’s a very likeable horse.
Happy retirement for The New One
As I said last week, The New One has been an amazing horse for a number of years. He’s been a massive part of Sam Twiston-Davies' career particularly and he’s just a special horse.
I was very lucky to ride him and win the International a couple of years ago. It’s obviously sad to see him go but lovely that he’s retiring fit and well. I’m sure he’ll have a great retirement.
Really important that people are talking about mental health
I was at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards on Sunday and there was a big focus on mental health.
ITV Racing also did a piece on Saturday with Michael Caulfield, a sports psychologist and former CEO of the PJA.
It’s important that people are talking about it. Life is getting more stressful, the whole world is more pressurised than it was in the past.
It can get quite tough and hopefully people now feel they can speak out about any issues they have rather than it being a taboo subject.
It’s really important that people know there is always someone to speak to and that it’s not a weakness to seek help.
The kids are now off school so the craziness of Christmas has definitely begun!
I’ll have to try to squeeze in some time for Christmas shopping at some point, but I’m at Olympia on Friday night for a male versus female jockeys competition, which will be fun.
We’ve then got the Lesters Awards on Saturday night, so it’s going to be a very busy week.
Visit Betway's horse racing betting page.