Richard Johnson celebrated another milestone moment at Ludlow yesterday after Garde La Victoire provided him with the 3,000th National Hunt winner of his career when maintaining his unbeaten record over fences in the Racing UK Winter Novices’ Chase.
Having reached the same total for both winners over jumps and on the flat at the track seven days ago, the 38-year-old secured the landmark achievement in the code he has made his name in with victory aboard the seven-year-old for his long-standing boss Philip Hobbs.
While Garde La Victoire still has work to do to match the likes of winning owner Diana Whateley’s star chasers Menorah, Captain Chris and Wishfull Thinking, the 1-6 favourite did what was required to follow up his Grade Two success at Cheltenham and make it three from three over fences with a five-length victory over the staying-on Doctor Harper.
Bookmakers were left unimpressed with Garde La Victoire’s performance in the two-mile prize, with Paddy Power leaving him unchanged at 16-1 for the Arkle, while Betfred eased him out to 16-1 from 14-1 for the same race.
Johnson said: “It’s been amazing . I can’t believe I’ve reached this number.
“The support I’ve had from the world and his wife has been amazing and a massive thanks goes to Philip Hobbs and (agent) Dave Roberts, who runs my life for me, while Philip and Henry Daly have been my two longest serving trainers and have been with me through thick and thin.
“My family have been very supportive, from mum and dad to my wife and three children.
“They (wife and children) are very understanding and they don’t see me much, but they are the ones who let me do what I love doing and they are always there when it doesn’t quite work out.”
As for Garde La Victoire, Johnson added: “He needed the experience and he has carried a big weight around on ground that he hates. The main thing is he has learnt a bit more.
“When it comes to Cheltenham, you want as much experience as you can get. The better ground in the spring is what we are looking forward to now.”
While chasing is expected to be his game, Battle Of Shiloh showed he is more than capable of making an impact over smaller obstacles when making a winning debut for trainer Tom George in the racinguk.com/winterseasonticket Maiden Hurdle.
Despite being a bit green, the 9-4 joint-favourite was well in command at the line in the two-mile-five-furlong prize, seeing off Another Frontier by two lengths.
George said: “He has done that nicely. He does what he has to do at home and no more than that and his works like a staying chaser.
“Next season over fences is hopefully when he will come into his own, but hopefully we can pick up one or two hurdle wins along the way.”
The Gipper (4-11) made up for his final flight departure at Chepstow last time out when making all in the racinguk.com/anywhere “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle to land the first leg of a double for trainer Evan Williams and jockey Adam Wedge.
The winning rider said: “He has come back from a fall and done it nicely. He seems to enjoy it out in front and he keeps galloping to the line.”
Still Believing (3-1) made it three wins at the track when opening her account over fences to complete the pair’s brace with an all-out neck success in the Racing UK 3 Devices 1 Price Handicap Chase.
Wedge said: “It’s hard to win on sticky ground like that, but she is very hardy and genuine and guts won that today. She tries all the way to the line .”
A tongue-tie appeared to do the trick for the Peter Bowen-trained Alf ’N’ Dor (15-8) judging by his facile 21-length success in the concluding Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Standard Open National Hunt Flat, while Fishing Bridge (5-1) stuck on gamely to get trainer Dave Rees on the scoresheet in the Racing UK Day Pass Just £10 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
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