We enjoyed a double at Newton Abbot on Saturday but the day deservedly belonged to Richard Johnson who announced his immediate retirement after riding in the race won by Eritage.
Richard is the second most successful jump jockey of all time with 3819 winners and was champion four years running until a broken arm put paid to his chances of a fifth title a year ago. He has been a brilliant jockey, a model sportsman and an absolute credit to racing. He is admired and liked by everyone who has had any dealings with him, had a wonderful temperament for the job, was unbelievably tough and endured countless years of disappointment chasing Sir AP McCoy in vain before becoming champion for the first time in 2016.
Fulsome tributes to Richard came from all corners of our sport with many younger jockeys stressing how ready he has always been to help them with a kind word and sound advice.
Newton Abbot also deserve praise for putting up proper prize money despite the financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. The total purse for Eritage’s race was £12,200 and the plan is to take him back there for a £22000 Chase at the start of May.
Earlier in the afternoon Hell Red and Celestial Force finished first and second in a qualifier for the Novice Championship series final at Sandown on the last day of the season.
On Sunday Diego Du Charmil’s cosy success in the Sussex Champion Hurdle at Plumpton took our tally for the season to 154. He enjoyed the better ground and deserved to get his head in front again after a few tough assignments against some of the best hurdlers around.
Later this week we are taking a powerful squad to Aintree for the three day Grand National meeting with entries in almost every race. Thursday’s Grade 1 contenders include Hitman, Monmiral, Clan Des Obeaux and McFabulous with Cat Tiger and Sametegal among the supporting cast in the Foxhunters.
We will be just as busy in the key races at Aintree on Friday and Saturday with Yala Enki and Give Me A Copper on course for the Grand National.
For the up to the minute news on all my runners please be sure to check out my Betfair column which goes live late afternoon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.