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Richard Johnson Betway blog: Wincanton and stable staff

07 Jan | BY Richard Johnson | MIN READ TIME |
Richard Johnson Betway blog: Wincanton and stable staff

The champion jockey talks about the tough jobs that go on behind the scenes as well as reviewing his weekend rides from Wincanton and Plumpton.

I’ve talked about the weather a lot already this season, but we really could do with some rain.

The ground is starting to dry out everywhere. It’s very unusual for it to be so dry at this time of the year, hopefully it will come soon.

Wincanton on Saturday

It was great to get a winner at Wincanton on Saturday with Molineaux in the novices’ handicap chase.

He’d already run well over fences this season, but I was flat out the whole way. Nicky Henderson’s mare went a really strong gallop which suited us in the end as he stays very well.

The ground was pretty much good at Wincanton and it’s a quick track anyway, so he was outpaced early and then stayed on well.

I think on good ground you’d see him over a bit further. It depends on what the weather does as it’s very dry for January. He’s a talented horse and is going the right way.

We were disappointed with Dancingatdunraven in the novices’ hurdle, he didn’t do what we hoped. He was keen and hung left, hopefully he’ll be better next time.

Dark Episode travelled really well and jumped nicely in the handicap hurdle, but he didn’t finish his race off.

He seemed fine afterwards, it was only his third run over hurdles and may have been a bit too much for him at this stage of his career. He’s still got potential.

Unsafe Conduct was too keen in the opening handicap hurdle, while it was a shame that Sizing Platinum stumbled and we parted company in the 2m4f handicap chase.

He’d gone well up to that point, even though we hadn’t gone far. It was frustrating as he jumped the fence fine and then just slipped. He’s a good horse and you’ll see the best of him in the spring.

Le Ligerien ran a nice race in the closing maiden hurdle, he just needs to learn to settle. He was a bit over enthusiastic, but as he grows up he’ll get better and better.

Plumpton on Sunday

Big Meadow ran fairly well in the Sussex National. He travelled and jumped nicely, but the ground was a bit too lively for him and when they quickened up he struggled.

When he gets his conditions he can do well, he’s definitely on the right sort of mark.

We don’t know how good Laurina is

None of us learnt very much about Laurina at Sandown apart from that she’s fit and well. With Buveur D’Air getting beat at Kempton, the Champion Hurdle does look a wide open race.

I’m sure connections are hopeful and Willie Mullins certainly knows what it takes to win the race. She’s right in the mix for me and as she’s still unexposed we don’t know how good she is.

Venetia Williams is on fire

The Veterans Final was another great race. They looked to go pretty fast from the word go and Houblon Des Obeaux was the class horse in the race. He was top class in his heyday, winning a Denman Chase and running in the Gold Cup.

It showed his well-being and also the unbelievable form of the Venetia Williams yard. When I look across and see one of her runners at the start at the moment it’s a bit of a worry.

Master Dino looked very good

Plumpton is quite a hard place to judge a horse, but Master Dino jumped and travelled nicely in the novice chase.

Knocknanuss is a smart performer and he went off quickly, so it was a decent performance by the French horse. Plumpton is a much sharper track than Auteuil and he has to be one of the leading contenders for the JLT at Cheltenham after that.

He took to our fences, not every French horse can adapt straight away. French hurdles are similar to a small British fence, but they have a variety of bigger obstacles over there. Some you can go through the top, others you have to go over.

They often go through the top in France whereas our fences tend to be a bit stiffer. Plumpton is a good place to learn and if Master Dino can cope with that, there’s no reason why he won’t cope with Cheltenham.

Congratulations to Brian Hughes

Riding a thousand winners is a great achievement and well done to Brian Hughes for doing it. Although jockeys are riding more winners these days than they did in the past, you need consistency and he’s had that for a number of years.

He’s been riding lots of winners everywhere and is having another great season. He’s certainly keeping me on my toes and I have to make sure I stay one step ahead of him and Harry Skelton.

Important to help stable staff

It’s good that the issue of stable staff is being discussed.

As a jockey I obviously don’t see it as much as trainers, they’re the ones who know how hard it is to get good staff.

It’s not the most glamorous lifestyle, people do it because they love horses.

The day-to-day is very hard and it’s important to help the staff as much as possible to enjoy their work. They have to be appreciated, we can’t do it without them.

There is a challenge to try to keep people in the industry when they start to have a family.

It’s difficult to balance working in racing with family life, so anything we can do to help in that area will be a big benefit to stable staff and the industry as a whole.

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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.