Richard Johnson: ‘It’s nice to know that whatever happens now it can’t change — I will be champion jockey’ *H&H VIP*

  • Horse & Hound is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy. Learn more
  • The 2016 Grand National meeting had a really good atmosphere, we were lucky with the weather and the course was in great condition.

    I had a frustrating Cheltenham Festival so it was nice to get a winner with Native River at Aintree.

    The Grand National itself was a great showpiece for the sport this year. It was competitive and the rain on the day made it quite testing — too much so for my ride Kruzhlinin and I pulled up four from home.

    The viewing figures were up this year too, which is great news for the sport; putting it back an hour for the TV audience seemed to work.

    There was a record peak of just over 10 million viewers on Channel 4 and it’s great to be a part of such a popular event.

    The best thing was that all horses and jockeys came back safe and sound. I think Aintree have the balance right now; the modifications over the years have made it safer, but I can guarantee it’s still a very daunting prospect lining up ahead of the race and the fences still take a lot of jumping; you can’t become complacent.

    The National now attracts quality horses — we had several Grade One winners on the card.

    Ahead of the race I wouldn’t have called Rule The World as the winner, but looking at his form it’s not a massive surprise, although I can’t imagine there are many National winners who haven’t won over fences before.

    It was a fairytale for trainer Mouse Morris. He’s had a hard time losing his son last year, and so winning the Irish National then this must be fantastic, and I’m sure “Tiffer” would be very proud.

    A horse of a lifetime

    Last week Balthazar King was retired; he was such a fantastic servant to us all. He’s absolutely fine after his spill at Cheltenham but we felt perhaps he didn’t have that same spark that he used to. He’s 12 years old now and has been unbelievable.

    He will spend his retirement at his owners’ farm and have a great life I’m sure. He’s not the type of horse who’d be happy sitting in a field, so I expect he’ll be very active.

    I owe him some of the biggest days in my career. He really is the horse of a lifetime and will always have a special place in my heart.

    End of the season nears

    Two trainers who must be pinching themselves after Aintree will be Colin Tizzard and Willie Mullins. For Colin to have three Grade One winners in Cue Card, Thistlecrack and Native River was something else.

    The trainers’ championship is now Willie’s to lose rather than Paul Nicholls’ to win, and to be champion trainer in both England and Ireland is a huge achievement.

    It’s only a week or so now until the end of the season and I’ve never had so much media attention; I’m beginning to realise how AP felt. It’s fantastic that so many people want to talk to me and it’s overwhelming how much support I’ve had.

    It’s nice to know that whatever happens now it can’t change — I will be champion jockey.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 14 April 2016