Richard Johnson: Girls are more than capable of winning *H&H VIP*

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  • It’s been a great couple of weeks for fans with the return of older horses in National Hunt racing.

    It was fantastic to see Sprinter Sacre win at Cheltenham. A couple of years ago he was one of the most exciting horses we’d seen in a long time, but after his health scare it was uncertain if he’d have the same enthusiasm. I think he showed his old form, travelling and jumping well. It’s great for the sport too; the atmosphere at the racecourse when he won was brilliant.

    For Nico de Boinville, who rides Sprinter Sacre at home, it would have felt fantastic — although not without pressure — to grasp the opportunity and ride him in a race.

    Cue Card also seems back to his best, winning the Betfair Chase, a race he won in 2013. He could be a Gold Cup horse — he’s now won the first leg of the new triple crown (which boasts a £1m bonus) so if he wins the King George VI, I expect he’ll go to Cheltenham in March. He seems in good heart and is staying well; you couldn’t help but be impressed.

    Bobs Worth won a couple of weeks ago and Rock On Ruby was in front at Ascot this weekend too — it’s great to have all these class horses still around. That’s what National Hunt is all about, seeing the top names performing well year after year.

    Thumbs up for sideshows

    Racing does its best to attract the crowds, providing value for money and a good day out. The Clydesdale race at Exeter is always entertaining. I was too late to ride in it this year but the lads said it was a laugh, with James Best winning.

    AP McCoy tried out dressage at Cheltenham riding Charlotte Dujardin’s grand prix national champion Barolo.

    He told me his legs had never ached so much in 20 years of racing as after 30 minutes of dressage. It’s amazing how two disciplines in the same sport can be so different. You think riding is pretty universal but it’s harder than it looks — the good riders just make it look easy.

    It was good for the public to see him try something new though.

    Talking of AP, he must have had a bang on the head now he’s retired, saying women jockeys should get a 3lb claim — he would not have given away a weight allowance if he was still riding!

    The sport is very competitive to get rides whether you’re male or female. As I’ve said before, there are more and more good female jockeys coming through, and times and attitudes are changing. Girls are more than capable of winning — if they work as hard as the lads, they don’t need the claim.

    Bobs is the one to beat

    I’ve been light on winners recently, but Copper Kay ran really well at Cheltenham; hopefully she’ll be one to watch out for.

    I ride Fingal Bay in the Hennessy. He ran really well finishing second at Kempton earlier this month and was a Grade One winner a couple of years ago.

    He only carries 10 stone though, so I’ll be eating kids’ size portions this week. It is harder making those weights, so I’ll have to try not to be too grumpy, eat slightly less and lose a couple of pounds in the sauna.

    It’s a competitive race with Bobs Worth and Coneygree. However, Bobs Worth as a Gold Cup and Hennessy winner on 10st 7lb looks well treated by the handicapper and will take all the beating.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 26 November 2015