Friday, 19 June 2020

Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson
Born on July 21st 1977 in Hereford, Richard Johnson is an English jockey who rides on the National Hunt circuit and who very much has racing in his family, as the son of successful trainer, Sue Johnson and a father who spent many years as an amateur jockey.

Great Start

By the age of 18, in 1996, Johnson had claimed the title of Champion ‘Conditional’ Jockey, which refers to a rule by which a jockey with less than 20 winners to his or her name can claim extra weight. His first ‘under rules’ National Hunt winner was in 1994 on Rusty Bridge at Hereford Racecourse.

Cheltenham Festival

Over the last 20 years, Richard Johnson has enjoyed great success at Cheltenham winning numerous major races there, something that led to him being named the top jockey at the 2002 festival. He is one of just 3 jockeys to have won all 4 of the champion races at Cheltenham and has won there as recently as 2018, when claimed the prestigious Gold Cup on the Colin Tizzard horse, Native River.

There is still much to come from Richard Johnson, with the jockey already having passed 3,000 winners in Britain already. He still harbours hopes of winning the Grand National, something that he has not managed in 20 attempts to date, which at time of writing, is the joint highest number of races competed in and unfortunately for him, the most races competed in without a winner. He came close twice, coming second on Whatsupboys in 2002 and Balthazar King in 2014, but has yet to cross the line first.

Luckily for him, he still has lots and lots of time to put the record straight, and with a winning record like his, you’d be foolish to bet against him doing so.

Sunday, 3 May 2020


Bred by Sheikh Abdulla Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, bought, as a yearling, by the Coolmore organisation and trained by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, Co. Kildare, Camelot, was a bay colt by Montjeu. He was one of the few horses of the modern era to attempt the traditional English Triple Crown – that is, the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby and the St. Leger – last won by Nijinsky in 1970.

Camelot raced just twice as a juvenile, easily winning his maiden at Leopardstown in July before giving his rivals similarly short shrift in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October, when stepped up to Group One level for the first time. He reappeared in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket the following May without the benefit of a preparatory run but, although left with plenty to do entering the final quarter of a mile, led inside the final furlong and stayed on well to justify favouritism, beating French Fifteen by a neck.

In the Derby at Epsom, Camelot started 8/13 favourite to beat just eight rivals – the smallest field since 1907 – and duly obliged, running on strongly to beat Main Sequence by 5 lengths, eased down. Aidan O’Brien said afterwards, “From day one he’s been exceptional, so I was really taking it race by race rather than by trip.”

In the Irish Derby later the same month, Camelot faced just five rivals, including stable companion Astrology, whom he’d already beaten at Epsom, and was sent off 1/5 favourite to extend his unbeaten record. Before the race, Aidan O’Brien had expressed concerns that the soft to heavy going at the Curragh might prove too testing for Camelot but, despite jinking left in the closing stages, he kept on well inside the final furlong to beat Born To Sea by 2 lengths.

Camelot was rested for six weeks until his bid for the Triple Crown at Doncaster in October. His nine rivals in the St. Leger included Thought Worthy, his old rival Main Sequence and Encke, who’d previously finished first, second and third in the Great Voltigeur at York. However, over the extra 2½ furlongs on Town Moor, Encke fared best of that trio and proved to be the proverbial fly-in-the-ointment for Camelot. Try as he might, the 2/5 favourite could never quite reel in the 25/1 outsider and Encke held on well to win by three-quarters of a length.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Mick Channon

Mick Channon
Former Southampton F.C. and England footballer Michael Roger Channon is now one of racing’s most respected trainers. 
While he’s yet to produce a winner of one of the British Classic Races, he won his first Irish Classic in 2012 with Samitar in the 1,000 Guineas. Other career highlights include wins in the Cheveley Park Stakes, the Dewhurst Stakes, the Falmouth Stakes, and the St James’s Palace Stakes. 
He has regularly had over 100 wins in a season, with his best to date in 2003 where he saddled 144 winners and took home prize money over £2million. 
Born in Orcheston, Wiltshire Channon made his footballing debut age 17 for Southampton in 1966. While he played for Newcastle United, Manchester City and Norwich during his career, he was best known for his time at Southampton who he won the F.A. Cup with in 1976. In 1972 he was called up to the England national team by Alf Ramsey and went on the chalk up 46 caps in his international career. 
After retiring from football in 1986, long time race enthusiast Channon began working as an assistant trainer. In 1990 he obtained his trainer licence and purchased West Ilsley Stables, Newbury whose previous owner was Queen Elizabeth II. After starting out with around 10 horses, Channon’s operation has expanded to nearly 200 and his yard welcomes some of the best racing talent in the country. His old footballing pals including Sir Alex Ferguson, Kevin Keegan, Alan Ball and Chris Cattlin all have horses at his stables.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020


Katchit was best known for winning the Triumph Hurdle in 2007 and the Champion Hurdle in 2008. The latter victory made him the first horse since Persian War, in 1968, to complete the Triumph Hurdle - Champion Hurdle double in consecutive years and the first five-year-old since See You Then, in 1985, to win the Champion Hurdle.

Small in stature, but a swift, instinctive hurdler, Katchit was bought by Wiltshire trainer Alan King after he watched him win his only race on the Flat, a 0-75 handicap, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Salisbury in June, 2006. Katchit made his hurdling debut at Market Rasen the following September and only had to be pushed clear by Robert “Chocolate” Thornton to win by 9 lengths, eased down. Indeed, Katchit won seven of his eight starts as a novice, culminating with two victories at Grade 1 level. In the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, he led approaching the last flight and was driven clear for an impressive 9-length win, while in the Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, less than a month later, he stayed on strongly to beat Punjabi by 4 lengths.

Katchit reappeared at Aintree the following October, taking revenge on Degas Art, the only horse to have beaten him as a novice, but was beaten the next twice, in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Nevertheless, he resumed winning ways in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton in February, running on well to beat Blythe Knight by 5 lengths. In the Champion Hurdle a month later, Katchit started only joint fifth choice in the market in a field of 15 runners, which included Osana, who’d beaten him 8 lengths in the International Hurdle, and Harchibald, who’d beaten him 3¼ lengths in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. However, in the Cheltenham showpiece, Katchit took the lead with two to jump and, although strongly challenged by his old rival Osana at the last flight, stayed on well up the hill to win, all out, with Punjabi a further 5 lengths away in third.

Sadly, Katchit never won again. When he died, as a 10-year-old, in 2013, following colic surgery, Alan King said of him, “He was a marvellous horse. He was just tough. It is definitely up there with my best winners and we will never forget him.”

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Brief History of the Grand National

The Grand National was the brainchild of William Lynn, proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel in Liverpool, although Lynn took his inspiration from the existing, and highly successful, Great St. Albans Steeplechase. The inaugural running of the Liverpool Grand Steeplechase took place in 1836, but the first ‘official’ running of the Grand National is recognised as having taken place three years later, in 1839.

Indeed, for the first three years of its existence, the Grand National was a conditions race, in which all the runners carried twelve stone, and did not become a handicap until 1843.

With the exception of the years 1941-1945, when the race was cancelled because of World War II, a Grand National of some sort has been staged every year since. However, during the years 1916-1918, during World War I, the race was transferred to Gatwick Racecourse, where it was run first as the as the ‘Racecourse Association Steeplechase’ and subsequently as the ‘War National’.

In 1993, disaster struck when the majority of the jockeys failed to realise a false start had been called and seven horses completed the course, leading to the race being declared void and going down in history as the ‘National that never was’. A real out there event that wouldn't have been present in anyone's Grand National predictions. Four years later, in 1997, a coded bomb threat from the Irish Republican Army, led to the evacuation of Aintree Racecourse and the running of the one and only ‘Monday National’ 48 hours later.

In the early days, the point where runners cross the Melling Road, near the Anchor Bridge, really did mark the boundary of the ‘racecourse proper’. Beyond that boundary, horses raced over open countryside, including ploughed fields, and jumped a variety of natural obstacles, including banks, brooks, ditches and hedges. Over time, some of the original obstacles, and also a stone wall and two standard brush hurdles, were modified, or done away with altogether, and incorporated into an enclosed National Course. Of course to this day the National is very much known for it's challenging fences. The Chair and Canal Turn especially are notorious for their level of difficulty. Many gifted horses have come a cropper navigating the National course.

Taking us to the present day. The 2020 Grand National will be the 173rd running of the prestigious event, a fact which takes some getting your head around. TV viewing figures in the UK are expected to be around 8-10 million, and worldwide into the hundreds of millions. There may be updates to the record books should Tiger Roll do what many would have won thought impossible. Namely win a third Grand National in a row. His season has gone as expected so far, and predictably he's been made favourite for the race. Tiger Roll has been level pegging it with the legend of racing that is Red Rum, but will he be able to take this achievement to the next level? If he does, I dare say I'll be six feet under before any horse ever beats THAT record.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Golden Horn

Golden Horn
Bred and owned by Anthony Oppenheimer and trained by John Gosden in Newmarket, Suffolk, Golden Horn was named Cartier Horse of the Year in 2015 after winning the Derby, the Coral-Eclipse, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. All in all, in a career lasting just over a calendar year, he won seven of his nine races and earned over £4.4 million in total prize money.

A March foal, Golden Horn raced just once as a juvenile, overcoming greenness to win a run-of-the-mill maiden stakes race over an extended mile at Nottingham in October, 2014. However, he improved significantly from two to three, winning the Listed Feilden Stakes, over 1 mile 1 furlong, on his reappearance at Newmarket the following April and readily accounting for stable companion Jack Hobbs in the Betfred Dante Stakes, over 1 mile 2½ furlongs, at York a month later.

Golden Horn was supplemented for the Derby, at a cost of £75,000 to connections, and faced 11 rivals, headed by Jack Hobbs and Giovanni Canaletto, trained by Aidan O’Brien, who’d been narrowly beaten in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh on his previous outing. He was sent off 13/8 favourite and duly collected, running on well in the closing stages to record a comfortable 3½-length victory over his old rival Jack Hobbs.

Winning jockey Frankie Dettori, who’d first won the Derby eight years earlier on Authorized, said afterwards, “When you’re young, you don’t really appreciate the full importance of this Derby, so it means a great deal to win it for a second time.”

Golden Horn took on the older horses for the first time in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in July and, although involved in a good battle with The Grey Gatsby throughout the last half a mile, stretched clear in the closing stages to win by 3½ lengths. He faced The Grey Gatsby again in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York the following month and, as he had at Sandown, started 4/9 favourite to extend his unbeaten record to six. Golden Horn beat The Grey Gatsby easily enough but, surprisingly, failed to overcome 50/1 outsider Arabian Queen – a three-year-old filly officially rated 21lb inferior – going down by a neck.

Golden Horn resumed winning ways in the Irish Champion Stakes, won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe under a fine ride by Frankie Dettori and finished his career by finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland, Kentucky.