Champion jockey Richard Johnson was a man in a hurry on Bank Holiday Monday, riding in the first two races at Warwick’s Family Fun Day meeting before dashing to Kempton Park for four more rides as he bids to land back-to-back titles, writes David Hucker.
Having finished runner-up to multiple champion AP McCoy no less than 16 times, the popular Johnson finally took the title last month with 235 winners, achieving his life-long ambition in style and finishing over 100 winners clear of runner-up Aidan Coleman.
Johnson’s modesty, work ethic and never-say-die attitude in a race has endeared him to the public as well as to professionals within the sport.
He rode in 1,044 races up and down the country, travelling some 2,000 miles a week, and also took in races in Ireland for good measure, including winning the Grade 2 Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse on Top Gamble for his Herefordshire neighbour Kerry Lee.
His two Warwick mounts were for Alan King, formerly assistant to the late David Nicholson, for whom Johnson rode at the start of his career, kicking off with Midnight Cowboy in the opening David Dennis Racing Novice’ Hurdle.
A model of consistency, Midnight Cowboy was sent off the 11-8 favourite and, having made a mistake at the first flight, recovered his composure to chase leader Unseen until taking over at the third-last obstacle.
He was still just in front approaching the final flight, but had no answer to the challenge of Marquis Of Carabas, who ran on well under jockey Brian Hughes to score for sponsoring trainer Dennis.
Toviere, having his first run since November, stayed on past the one-paced Midnight Cowboy to snatch second place on the run-in and should go one better in similar company soon.
Dusky Legend was a short-priced favourite to take the following Agility Fleet Mares’ “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.
She ran only twice last season, finishing runner-up both times, including behind Limini at the Cheltenham Festival, form that put her well above her rivals here.
Taking over from leader Mozo at the third-last flight, she went clear between the last two obstacles and had no problem in opening her account, scoring by 14 lengths.
Feature race of the afternoon was the £7,000 Join David Dennis Racing Club Handicap Chase over two-and-a-half miles and Long Lunch, trained at Over Norton by Charlie Longsdon, came with a well-timed run to lead at the last fence and forge clear for conditional jockey Graham Watters.
There is racing again tomorrow evening with the Proudly Warwick Twilight Raceday which gets underway at 5.15pm.
All CV34 residents can get in for £10 on the night and will also be entered into a prize draw to win annual memberships for next season.