Johnson determined to retain title
For the first time in his long and successful career, Richard Johnson will enter the heart of the National Hunt season in rather uncharted territory.
Duke Des Champs: Nice novice chaser, according to the champ
After years of having to play a supporting role to the now-retired 20-times champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, the 39-year-old finally – and deservedly – got his hands on the jump jockeys' title at Sandown in April at the conclusion of a season which saw him ride a staggering 235 winners.
Having claimed the one prize that for so long eluded him, the Gold Cup-winning jockey has made it his objective for the season to have his name engraved on the trophy once again.
A glance at the current table shows the ambitions Johnson has of defending his title are already in a healthy position, topping the charts as he closes in notching another century of winners.
"It's always hard. You've got to ride winners on a regular basis and that's the main thing, and keep out of trouble and injury free. That is another big key thing," said Johnson.
"You never know what is around the corner, but I've got lots of nice rides for plenty of different trainers over the next seven or eight months.
"Hopefully I will again have a good winter and try to achieve what I did last year. My main objective is to try and be champion and that has always been my aim.
As he picked out five to follow for the campaign ahead, he added: "Every lad in the weighing room would love to be champion jockey – it will be hard long season again, but I'm looking forward to it."
"He is a nice novice chaser to look forward to this season. He finished off on a mark on the high 140s. He ended up having an extra year hurdling as he needed time to strengthen.
"He has schooled well over fences. To go novice chasing he has got all the right things. He has got a good attitude and stays well and has taken to the fences really nicely. With the mark he has got you would like to think he can rank highly novice chasing.
"I was pleased with him at Newton Abbott as he did very little wrong. He'll improve for the first run of the season and we hope there's more to come."
"She was a very high-class bumper mare. You would like to think she can be up there with the mares' novice hurdles.
"She jumped no better than adequately on her hurdling debut. I'd hope that a better quality race will bring out some more improvement in her.
"She's a work in progress, but with a bit more practice you should see a more polished performance. She is very high class and is young, so you would hope there is more to come."
DUKE DES CHAMPS
"He was a lovely novice hurdler last season. He is very raw and I'd like to think he can make into a nice novice chaser. He achieved plenty over hurdles last year, but we hope there is more to come over fences."
ROCK THE KASBAH
"He is another in the novice chase category. He did really last season winning some big handicaps and crept up the ranks. He schooled well and should be another smart novice chaser.
"He jumped really well at Chepstow and travelled nicely. It was a pretty hot race and a lovely way to start the winter season.".
"He ran really in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. He won two bumpers before that. Again, he is quite a raw horse that with another summer's grass hopefully he would develop.
"He has done fine and is another nice staying novice hurdle prospect for the season."