Richard Johnson: Victory, tragedy, a knighthood and change afoot *H&H VIP*

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  • The King George VI was a great race this year.

    Cue Card put in a brilliantly competitive performance to win.

    It was sad that his owner Bob Bishop passed away just four days after the win, but it was an amazing race for Bob to have seen, and for everyone to remember him by.

    Kempton is a fast track and you get racing a long way out. It’s a speed test, and very flat, and we saw some great finishes over the two days.

    It was a shame that it was slightly overshadowed by the whip bans [Paddy Brennan on Cue Card and Ruby Walsh on Vautour received fines and bans] but it’s always going to be a controversial subject.

    Both are experienced horsemen and knew that the horses hadn’t responded as well as they could. Everyone is just trying to win; no jockey would ever set out to harm their mount.  

    The welfare of the horse was never put in jeopardy, but the rules are there and have to be enforced.

    It was fantastic to see Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy back in action too — that’s what National Hunt is all about. A two-mile chase is fast and furious, and going to the last you couldn’t separate the two.

    It was a good performance from Sprinter Sacre to win. He’s not the horse he was three years ago but he’s still a star.

    The new year started well for me with a win on Village Vic at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. He’s a jockey’s dream, a pleasure to ride and jumps for fun.

    Philip [Hobbs] is now lying second in the champion trainers’ table. He’s a way off Mr Nicholls yet, but his horses haven’t missed a beat and I’m delighted for the yard.

    Arise Sir Anthony

    Lizzie Kelly made history at Kempton, becoming the first woman to win a Grade One over jumps. It was always going to happen, but has taken a while as there are fewer women than men riding — and it’s hard for anyone to win a Grade One.

    The horse was very good and she gave it a great ride. It just shows if you have the opportunities it can be done.

    AP McCoy’s knighthood is great for him and the sport, and it is well deserved. It’s fantastic that he has been recognised outside the sports world by the country, too.

    AP won two more awards at the Lesters before Christmas. It’s an annual party for the jockeys run by the Professional Jockeys Association and it’s much appreciated.

    A fresh spin on things?

    I was sad to hear that Channel 4 had lost the racing coverage, as they’ve put a lot of effort into it. But things move on and I’m sure ITV will do a good job.

    People are always frightened of change, but it could be a good thing; fresh ideas could attract more viewers.

    I’ll be interested to see who is working on the team. Racing is a unique sport so Channel 4 has the cream of presenters, and I wonder who will make the cut. The most important thing is that racing is still on terrestrial TV. The figures are declining currently so maybe a new look will help.

    It’s been one of the wettest winters we’ve had, with several race meetings cancelled. While it’s always annoying to miss racing, looking at the bigger picture I hope the courses that are affected recover.

    The Welsh National was postponed, and is due to run on Saturday, but as we go to press [Monday] I’m still not entirely convinced it will have dried up enough. Fingers crossed it goes ahead.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 7 January 2016