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Richard Johnson Betway blog: Cheltenham New Year’s Day

31 Dec | BY Richard Johnson | MIN READ TIME |
Richard Johnson Betway blog: Cheltenham New Year’s Day

The champion jockey reflects on a year of incredible achievements before turning his attentions to his New Year's Day rides.

Everyone has been very kind since the news broke about the OBE. I’ve known about it for a while, but I’ve been very touched by all the messages and well-wishers.

As I’ve already said, it’s a massive honour and I’m not sure what day I’ll be going to pick it up yet. It would be lovely to go and collect it with the family.

Cheltenham on New Year’s Day

I have three rides to kick off the year at Cheltenham and first up is Darlac {ODDS:361858490:8/1} for Colin and Joe Tizzard in the novices’ hurdle (12.15pm).

I won on him at Fontwell on his first start of the season and his last two runs have been very good. His form’s improving as he goes.

The Tizzard horses are in fantastic order and he must go there with a decent chance of he can repeat his last run at Sandown.

Jersey Bean {ODDS:361858511:6/1} is a nice spare ride to pick up in the staying handicap hurdle (2.35pm), although it’s obviously a shame that Leighton Aspell is sidelined at the moment.

He’s a horse that’s been in great form this season and is another who should have a very good chance.

Tom Lacey has some very good bumper horses and Glory And Fortune {ODDS:361858546:5/2} (3.50pm) is one that he likes based on the work he’s shown at home.

He wouldn’t be going to Cheltenham first time unless he liked him and he is hopefully a very nice prospect for the future.

These four-year-old bumpers aren’t easy to judge.

They’re only turning four on New Year’s Day, so they’re babies, but we’re hoping he’ll run a big race.

It was great to see Defi Du Seuil get back to winning ways at Exeter last time.

Barry Geraghty schooled him around there 10 days ago and he said that he’s definitely learning and building his confidence over fences.

Fingers crossed he goes there and shows that form from two years ago.

Wholestone loves Cheltenham and even though he’d probably prefer slightly softer ground, he still looks the one to beat in the Relkeel Hurdle.

Midnight Shadow is the unexposed one and I think he’s a horse to look out for in the future. There should be more to come from him.

What a year it’s been

I’ll be having a fairly quiet time on New Year’s Eve, just some dinner with friends.

There certainly won’t be any crazy antics and I’ll be looking forward to Cheltenham as much as anything else.

2018 has been a fantastic year with the Gold Cup, jockey’s championship and then the OBE.

It’s going to be very hard to top that, but I hope 2019 will also be successful.

We had a really nice time over Christmas. The children make it and they’ve been having great fun. It was lovely to get some quality time with the family before the racing kicked off again on Boxing Day.

Reflections over the past few days

The Betway Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury was quite slowly run but we were pleased with Brewin’Upastorm.

He finished a good fourth and is one I’m looking forward to over the rest of the season.

Champ was impressive and he looks sure to be a major player in the big novice hurdles in the spring.

It’s always sad when a horse breaks down and that was the case in the novices’ hurdle at Haydock on Sunday when the race was voided.

Keep Rolling was running a very good race and he’s definitely one to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.

Back To The Thatch ran really well in the staying handicap chase, he was just beaten by a better handicapped horse on the day.

He’ll go for one of the big staying handicaps over the next couple of months and we hope he can pick one of them up.

Kemboy in the Gold Cup picture

Kemboy was impressive in Ireland when winning the Savills Chase at Leopardstown and he’s definitely in the picture for the Gold Cup now.

But like I’ve said before, the big plan for Native River has always been Cheltenham in March and I would never swap him for anything else. I’m sure he’ll go there with a massive chance again.

Happy New Year to you all!

Visit Betway’s horse racing page.


Richard Johnson

Four-time champion jump jockey who is second on the all-time list for most National Hunt winners in the UK.

Richard Johnson

Four-time champion jump jockey who is second on the all-time list for most National Hunt winners in the UK.