Champion jockey Richard Johnson was again the man in the spotlight at Warwick last Thursday, landing a treble to chalk up his 90th winner of the season, writes David Hucker.
It was at the course’s opening meeting of the season that Johnson had hit the milestone of 3,500 career wins in Great Britain and Ireland and he struck on his first ride of the afternoon when Olly Murphy’s General Custard took the opening Wee Maggie Dixte 50th Birthday “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
His other two winners were saddled by Welsh trainer Tim Vaughan, the first coming in the following Penguin Pay Maiden Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs with Trixster, who was returning from a 173-day break, running on well to beat favourite Pontresina.
The second was in the Ignite Incentives Handicap Hurdle when Canton Prince led well before the penultimate flight to beat Voodoo Doll, whose cause was not helped by a mistake at the last.
Dan Skelton saddled Desirable Court to a walkover with Bridget Andrews in the UBS Beginners’ Chase after the other two intended runners were scratched from the race because of unsuitable ground. It so nearly became a void race, however, as owner Craig Buckingham had threatened to quit racing after another of his horses, Magic Pulse, had mistakenly been withdrawn at the start for a valuable event at Nottingham the day before.
Skelton had posted on Twitter in the evening: “I’ve spent 20 mins on the phone to Craig Buckingham placating him and getting him in the frame of mind to run two of his horses tomorrow.”
Thankfully, for all concerned, the owner took his advice and emerged with the easiest winner of the day.
Highlight of the afternoon was the Class 3 Colliers International Rating Services Handicap Chase, in which course and distance winner Templehills topped the weights with 12-2 for Cotswold trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
With three non-runners, including likely market rival Chirico Vallis, he went off an 8-11 favourite and made all the running, overcoming a less than fluent jump at the last fence to beat Rear Admiral.
Soiesauvage won from a handicap mark of 86 at Uttoxeter a year ago and returned to the course to record her second victory off an effective rating of 102 last month.
She looked well-in at the weights for the concluding ROA/Racing Post Owners’ Jackpot Mares’ Handicap Hurdle and punters seemed to agree, making her the 13-8 market leader.
Hoponandsee had just come to take the lead when making a mistake at the penultimate flight and was passed before the last by Shufoog and Soiesauvage.
Despite hanging left on the run-in, it was the 8-1 outsider Shufoog who came out on top under Brendan Powell to score by a length-and-a-half.