CHAMPION jockey Richard Johnson was the man of the moment at Warwick’s new 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.
Johnson was runner-up to the now-retired Sir Anthony McCoy for the champion jockey title for 16 consecutive years before taking the championship for the last three seasons.
He still has some way to go to match McCoy’s record of 4,348 wins, but shows no signs of stopping and closed the gap on this season’s title race leader Harry Skelton to seven.
It wasn’t 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, who had led at the penultimate jump, 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.
Skelton had a good chance to stretch his lead again with dual winner Peppay Le Pugh in the following Smarkets Novices’ Handicap Chase over two miles 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, comfortably beating By Rail and All Is Good.
The day had started badly for favourite backers when Bangor-on-Dee winner Full Bore, sent off at 8-11, couldn’t 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 didn’t 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.
There was another good-size field for the Smarkets Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs in which 33-1 Stratford winner Kristal Hart was looking to follow up.
Her cause was certainly helped by the last flight fall of Scotsbrook Night that day, but she was still handily-weighted on a mark of 86 and doubled-up 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 £50 Risk Free On Racing With Smarkets 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.