Cheltenham Racing ‘I have had 20 goes… it’s about time I won it’: Champion jockey Richard Johnson hopes to end his Grand National pain
- Jockey has had a record 20 rides and twice finished second in 2002 and 2014
- Johnson believes last year’s winner Tiger Roll will take some beating on Saturday
- He believes he has a decent chance with Philip Hobbs-trained Rock The Kasbah
Published: 22:01 BST, 2 April 2019 | Updated: 16:26 BST, 5 April 2019
Champion jockey Richard Johnson is back riding in Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National after a two-year gap and he’s hoping to rock Aintree.
Given Johnson will lift his fourth title later this month and has ridden more winners in jump jockey history than anyone apart from Sir Anthony McCoy, it may seem surprising that he has been watching from the Weighing Room when the £1million race has been run for the past two seasons. But that has been 41-year-old Johnson’s choice.
After a record 20 previous Grand National rides, including second places on What’s Up Boys (2002) and Balthazar King (2014), Johnson decided he only wanted to take a mount in the race if it had a decent chance. That’s what he has on Philip Hobbs-trained 16-1 shot Rock The Kasbah.
Richard Johnson (above) is back riding in Saturday’s Grand National after a two-year gap
Johnson, who was unseated at the 15th fence when Celtic Abbey provided him with his first National ride in 1997, said: ‘I have been lucky enough to ride in the race 20 times. I’ve got the T-shirt, I’ve been round a few times. In fact, I’ve got lots of different T-shirts apart from the winning one! I want to go out on something I really think can win the race. For the last two years, Philip and the other trainers I ride for haven’t had the right type of horse for the race.
‘I know it sounds bad because most of the other jockeys in the Weighing Room just want to get a ride in the race. But I have had 20 goes, I want to get it right.
‘I think we have a live chance this time. It’s hard to get the ideal National horse but Rock The Kasbah has all the right credentials.’
Johnson falls from Alpha Des Obeaux after jumping the last fence at Aintree in 2015
Johnson and Hobbs have carefully planned Rock The Kasbah’s build-up. The nine-year-old, owned by Diana Whateley, has only run three times this season, winning at Cheltenham in November and not running since being unplaced at that track the following month.
Johnson said: ‘I am pretty sure he will stay the trip and he is best fresh, which is why he has not run for a while. He tries very hard so when he wins he generally has quite a hard race and it takes it out of him.
‘After his success, he was a bit disappointing back at Cheltenham, which is why we decided to give him a break. His preparation has all been geared around Saturday.’
Johnson believes hot favourite and last year’s winner Tiger Roll will take some beating but hopes his patient approach may finally bear fruit.
He said: ‘If I finish racing and haven’t won it, it won’t be the be-all and end-all. For me the championship was always the thing. It took me over 20 years to get that so maybe my time’s coming for the National.’