Johnson keeps rivals at bay with Warwick double

Wells De Lune jumps the last under Richard Johnson in the John Allen Memorial Chase. Picture: David Pratt

Wells De Lune jumps the last under Richard Johnson in the John Allen Memorial Chase. Picture: David Pratt

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Warwick again proved to be a happy hunting ground for champion jockey Richard Johnson as he extended his lead at the top of this season’s table with a double on Tuesday afternoon, writes David Hucker.

It was at Warwick back in March that Johnson notched his 200th winner of the 2015/16 campaign on Cheat The Cheater, going on to score 235 in all, and he was seen at his best in the feature £12,000 Asset Finance Brokers Handicap Chase, getting 6-1 shot Kilfinichen Bay up to win by a neck after favourite Master Dee had looked all over the winner when leading out of the back straight.

There was tight betting between the five runners in the John Allen Memorial Interactive Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, with top-weight Wells De Lune, ridden by Johnson, just shading favouritism from chasing debutant A Little Magic, who was to get no further than the first fence where he unseated jockey Aidan Coleman.

Out in front, Johnson had stolen a good lead on Wells De Lune and, although Jarlath tried to close the gap, he had enough left in the tank to come home seven lengths in front, with No Ceiling staying on for third.

Tahira, who was making her first appearance since going down in a photo finish at Stratford in July, was sent off the 11-8 favourite for the opening Arkle Finance Novices’ Hurdle.

Going clear off the home bend, she ran on well for conditional jockey Conor Shoemark to deny Furiously Fast, with outsider Hag Stone a long way back in third.

A number of the runners in the Rathbone Investment Management Handicap Chase had been active during the summer jumping campaign and it was Highbury High, a winner at Wincanton in May who headed the betting.

Copperfacejack, trained at Mollington by Paul Webber was backed from 5-1 to 7-2 to step up on his last run when tailed off at Uttoxeter but, although he ran on to snatch second place close home, he could not get near to Highbury High, who took the lead approaching the final fence and stayed on strongly for Noel Fehily.

The lead changed hands several times in the Ken Muir Memorial Handicap Hurdle, with top-weight For ‘N’ Against taking the runners along to the fourth-last flight from where Presence Felt and Decimus both took a turn in front.

But, they could not resist the challenge of 10-1 shot Patsys Castle who hit the front at the penultimate flight to make a successful return to hurdles after his chasing career failed to take off over the summer.

In the finale, top-weight What A Scorcher led after the third hurdle and held off the challenge of Loves Destination to score by two-and-threequarter lengths.