Richard Johnson: starving before a festive feast *H&H VIP*

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  • For AP McCoy to pick up the BBC lifetime achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards this weekend was great recognition for both him and the sport. It’s good for me too, as he can’t possibly return to riding now he’s received that!

    It’s brilliant that AP’s years of work have been publicly recognised as an achievement by the sporting world globally. I can’t see that anyone could do any more — to be at the top of your sport for 20 years is incredible.

    AP also came across very well in accepting the award and thanking the horses and the stable staff who ride them day in, day out. Without them we couldn’t do this job; horses are not something you can pick up and put down, so we’ll also be sparing a thought for all those working over Christmas looking after them.

    I was pleased to see Andy Murray win the main BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was deserved.

    A dead heat

    I’ve been fairly quiet but it was great to have a winner with Royal Regatta at Ascot, and it was so close but so far for Reve De Sivola in the Long Walk Hurdle. Reve De Sivola ran a really good race, but was beaten by a better horse in the Colin Tizzard-trained Thistlecrack. He looks like a real superstar and Colin’s horses are flying at the moment.

    The day ended well too; I finished joint first in a dead heat in the last. This is very unusual, especially in a 21-runner handicap. It was a great result and meant two sets of happy connections.

    At Cheltenham the week before it was worth skipping dinner to get down to 10st for Village Vic, who won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. Before the race I’d hoped he was still improving and in the run-in he was every jockey’s dream.

    I don’t do that light a weight often and it’s quite tough. I spent some time in the sauna, which I don’t like, but it did the trick. All you can think about all week is eating, and then when you finally can you have about three mouthfuls and you’re full, so it’s not as pleasant as you’d expect.

    I’m hoping I won’t have to do anything less than 10st 7lb on Boxing Day, so that I can enjoy Christmas dinner.

    The highlight of Christmas for most in racing is the King George at Kempton and it looks a very exciting renewal this year. There is plenty of strength in depth in the race so I’m sure it will be a thriller. It’s a shame Coneygree has been ruled out through injury, but the Irish horses Vautour and Don Cossack have done nothing wrong. Hennessy winner Smad Place heads there, as does dual winner Silviniaco Conti.

    As mentioned regarding Thistlecrack, Colin Tizzard’s horses are on fire at the moment, so Cue Card should run well. Colin’s horses have been moved to a new barn, and it seems to have made all the difference. When a yard is healthy, even the yard cat could win a race. If you’re out of form it’s as if nothing can go right.

    A sad farewell

    I was shocked to hear of the death of Alan Lee (news, p10) earlier this week. He was well respected by everyone in racing and cricket. Alan was a fantastic journalist; he had a way with words and was a genuinely nice person to be around. He was passionate about the sport and you could tell he loved it in his writing. I saw him at Ascot on Friday looking fit and healthy, so it was a massive shock to hear he had died the following day. He will be missed.

    H&H 24 December 2015