Ashforth’s Angles: is this a bridge too far for the champ?

Richard Johnson: might have met his match at Bangor

PICTURE: Getty Images Is this a bridge too far for champion Johnson?
By David Ashforth 6:00PM 21 DEC 2016

Evidently champion jump jockey Richard Johnson has fallen out with trainer Susan Johnson, his mother – and just before Christmas, too.

Admittedly, you can't believe everything you read in a newspaper, or on a website. For instance, in 1897, it was rumoured that Mark Twain had died, prompting Twain to write, "I have heard on good authority that I was dead. The report of my death was an exaggeration."

All I can say is that Johnson has several booked rides at Bangor on Thursday, including in the race before the 3.10 and the race after the 3.10. It is the 3.10 that was the cause of the trouble.

For some time, The Last Bridge appeared among the declared runners without Johnson's name beside that of Susan Johnson's nine-year-old. Yet Johnson is The Last Bridge's regular rider. Why the apparent hesitation? Like Twain, I have it on good authority that the Johnsons "had words."

The words were, I understand, as follows: Richard – "Oh, no, not again. Please don't run him. He's exhausting. It took me days to get over it last time. He's no ride for a man my age. He's exhausting."

Susan – "That's a terrible thing to say to your own mother. If you don't want to ride him there's plenty of jockeys who will."

Richard – "No there aren't."

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Susan – "Yes there are. You've said yourself there's nothing like The Last Bridge to get you fit. All that pushing and shoving."

Richard – "Yes, for three miles."

Susan – "That's not true. He's quite good for the first mile. He's been very good at home."

Richard – "That's what you said last time, and the time before. I've ridden him 24 times. I've been counting. No more, please mum."

Susan – "Well, Richard, it's up to you but don't expect any Christmas presents."

Richard – "Oh, all right then."

It's only fair to say that I made all that up and none of it is true, although I suspect the bit about Johnson being exhausted after riding The Last Bridge is true, and the bit about him getting fit, and probably other bits as well.

Ride of the month

While on the subject, if no one has nominated Johnson's ride on Cheat The Cheater at Ffos Las on December 12 for ride of the month then I'd like to.

Celebrated rides tend to be winning rides and Cheat The Cheater finished third in the three mile plus chase but it was a terrific ride. I doubt if any other jockey – and we've got some very good ones – would have finished as close as Johnson did. If you can watch a replay it's worth watching.

Prominent early, Cheat The Cheater soon dropped to the rear with Johnson already pushing. Last going out on the final circuit, by the time they entered the home straight Johnson would have been justified in giving up.

Way adrift of the leaders, approaching the third last Cheat The Cheater began to make ground. Amazingly, by the last fence he had a squeak of winning. It was a great ride.

I hope Christmas isn't too awful.

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