Milestone for Johnson at Warwick curtain-raiser

He's A Goer is led into the winner's enclosure after winning the Smarkets Betting Exchange Novices' Hurdle (Div 2).
He's A Goer is led into the winner's enclosure after winning the Smarkets Betting Exchange Novices' Hurdle (Div 2).

Champion jockey Richard Johnson was the man of the moment at Warwick’s season opener on Tuesday, landing his 3,500th winner in Great Britain and Ireland when steering 8-1 shot He’s A Goer to victory for Herefordshire trainer Tom Lacey, writes David Hucker.

It was not all plain sailing, however, as He’s A Goer was anything but at the start and made a real hash of the final flight before proving too strong on the run-in for On Raglan Road to take the second division of the Smarkets Betting Exchange Novices’ Hurdle.

Disappointment of the race was hot 1-5 favourite Laughing Luis, successful in a bumper at Stratford last month and expected to making a winning debut over jumps for owner John Sillett.

This season’s leading jockey Harry Skelton had a good chance to get one back with dual winner Peppay Le Pugh in the following Smarkets Novices’ Handicap Chase and he was well placed when stumbling after the fourth-last fence, leaving the way clear for 25-1 shot Railroad Junkie to record his first win under Rules.

The day had started badly for favourite backers when Bangor-on-Dee winner Full Bore, sent off at 8-11, could not live with debutant Nylon Speed. The winner had been bought by owners Axom from Germany, making a winning debut in this country on the flat at Kempton last month and he clearly has plenty of pace for hurdles as well.

Dreamsoftheatre only went down by a head to Guerrilla Tactics at Stratford but the winner let the form down when unplaced at Newton Abbot the week before and he was set to carry 4lb more in the Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow Handicap Hurdle over three-and-a-quarter miles.

Opening in the betting at 14-1, he proved friendless in the market, drifting out to 25-1 but that did not stop him winning, leading at the second-last flight to beat Fact Of The Matter, with the Johnson-ridden favourite Silk Run back in third,

Top of the bill was the Class 3 Birdie’s 2019 Wall & Desk Calendars Handicap Chase and it went to Laurium who, since winning at Kempton Park in March last year, had been pulled up in all three of his races, including over hurdles at Haydock Park in May after having wind surgery.

Sent off at 12-1, Laurium led two fences from home to bring up a welcome winner for champion trainer Nicky Henderson after defeat of his odds-on favourites in the two divisions of the novices’ hurdle.

The Smarkets Mares’ Handicap Hurdle saw 14-1 shot Kristal Hart make it back-to-back wins under Tom Scudamore, holding off the top-weight Dory by half a length, with Scented Lily a neck away third.

Trainer Evan Williams and jockey Adam Wedge, successful with Railroad Junkie earlier on, were on the mark again with Jonagold in the closing handicap chase, although he only had a neck to spare over Mariners Moon, with Heurtevent the same distance away in third in the closest finish of the afternoon.